Cultural Revolutions

Taking God Out of School

The Pledge of Allegiance, as this issue goes to press, is illegal for children in the public schools of Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington state to recite, because it contains the words “under God.”  Two out of three judges on a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit believe that the federal statute adding those two words to the pledge in 1954 was in violation of the First Amendment’s mandate: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.”

No ruling by any court in recent memory has been denounced as vehemently by politicians—both houses of Congress proceeded the next day to recite the pledge noisily, emphasizing the words “under God.”  The federal solons even sang “God Bless America” for good measure (indicating that the logic of the Ninth Circuit would also prohibit public-school children from singing that ditty or from carrying in their pockets coins with “In God We Trust” stamped on them).  The President quickly denounced the decision, as did prominent leaders in both political parties.  A few ACLU and rigid separation-of-Church-and-state types, who seemed incapable of understanding the general feeling that the pledge is more about simple patriotism than religion, praised the ruling and remarked, quite correctly, that it was in keeping with Supreme...

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