The Goal of the Pledge Suit

The Pledge of Allegiance plaintiff explains he is contesting 'Under God' to raise awareness of the 'plight of atheists.'

BY: Michael Newdow

 

Reprinted with permission from Free Inquiry.



Why did I do it? The answer is easy: our current system is wrong. We have rules, and we're supposed to abide by them, but we haven't been abiding by them at all in the arena of the relationship between government and citizens. We've taken a purely religious ideal--one that millions of Americans expressly deny--and incorporated it into our government. Such activity is expressly prohibited by our Constitution. This is my country just as much as it is anyone else's, and I demand from my government the same respect for my views regarding religion that is given to those with alternative ideals. I'm not someone the majority "tolerates." I don't thank the masses for "allowing" me to not worship as I please. I am not a second-class citizen who should be seen and not heard.

The United States of America is just as much an atheistic entity as it is a theistic entity, with zero being the measure of each. When Congress placed "In God We Trust" on all our coins and currency, when it inserted "under God" into the Pledge of Allegiance, when the Supreme Court starts its sessions with "God save the United States and this honorable court," when presidents take their oaths of office with chaplains offering prayers to God, when every legislative session begins with a prayer to God--and on and on--those who disbelieve in a supreme being are explicitly told that "they are outsiders, not full members of the political community," while theistic Americans are told "that they are insiders, favored members of the political community." That language--repeated time and again by the Supreme Court in describing Establishment Clause violations--details exactly what has been occurring with increasing frequency in our society. The responses of our legislators and our president in the aftermath of the Pledge case decision serve only to highlight the depth of the constitutional transgression.

This is a civil rights campaign, as important and as serious as any in our history. To be sure, other politically disenfranchised minorities--such as women, people of color, and the disabled-have the added burden of physical attributes that make them immediately identifiable. Yet the biases and prejudices each class has endured are little different. Government cannot eliminate invidious opinions, but it can--and, when the opinions are based on religious differences, it constitutionally must--stop fostering such beliefs. We greatly improved our society when we altered our laws to stop encouraging racial segregation, barring women from the workplace, and ignoring the disabled. The goal of the Pledge lawsuit is only to attain further improvement.

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