When I chose to serve in military service to this country and when I reenlisted, I took a religious stance on this. No idolatry, of any kind! No idolatry for me includes no uttering of the word “God” in an oath and no giving homage directly to a flag that is the symbol of a nation of people. In others words, my pledge of allegiance and service is to “the People” of this nation, not to the people by proxy of a flag. I did my best in my non-theistic way to honor the intent of those who founded this country that we call the United States of America. They never intended this country to be a nation “under God” or to be a nation of a particular religious persuasion. Nor did they mean for us to (near) worship a symbol of our democracy, but to reverently *be in service* to a People’s democracy.
We are a nation “of the people” and “by the people.” This includes people who are other than Christian and people who are entirely not religious. This is why the pledge of allegiance for U.S. citizens deliberately did *not* make any mention of a god of any sort when it was written by a Baptist minister and socialist in 1892. As of 2016, the national pledge of allegiance has been around for 124 years, and the first 62 years of it were aligned with the European “Era of Enlightenment” (Age of Reason) social and Deist philosophies that the United States of America was constitutionally founded upon. In 1954, after the rise of the radicalized Christian-Right in national politics and, specifically, in response to the Cold War against Communism, this national pledge of allegiance was amended to include the phrase “under God,” to signify that America is a Christian nation, rather than a nation of immigrants of all religious and non-religious persuasions as the Founding Father’s of this nation believed and established. Hence, why the same “under God,” in the altered form of “in God we trust,” is also now on the paper money, though it used to not be. How many of you knew this? And, knew that legally you cannot be forced or coerced to say the pledge of allegiance while the reference to a god is still in there?
Back to what I was saying, though … As a patriot who has now served this country honorably and at great sacrifice to self, to initially make my allegiance to military service to this country, I had to alter the words a bit to make an honest and truthful sworn allegiance. To make my pledge actually sayable for me, and to keep it within the very clear historical intent of the Founding Fathers of this nation – and I quote, “one nation indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” I was actually surprised that I was allowed to do this, knowing how politically divisive this non-theistic stance is. So, since then, I have encouraged the following alternative Pledge of Allegiance for all those who are not willing to pledge a Christian altered version (that is taught in all schools today) of the Founding Fathers’ pledge. It goes like this:
“I pledge allegiance to the people of the United States of America, and give my utmost respect to the flag under which we stand. One nation, a people united and indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
As well, I also encourage that we as a nation of the People and by the People insist that the phrase on the paper currency be amended to read: In Democracy We Trust! Or, better yet, as those who wrote the Declaration of Independence and constitutionally founded this United States of America would have preferred: In Liberty And Justice We Trust! This is inline with the secularist intent of the “Founding Fathers” when creating this nation and its constitution and pledge. Hence, the reason for and emphasis upon Separation of Church and State.
Will you, please, rise now for the national anthem, “America the Beautiful” (a non-theist version).
O beautiful for spacious skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain!
Stars shed its lights on thee!
And crown thy good with nationhood
From sea to shining sea.
O beautiful for patriot dream
That sees beyond the years
Thine alabaster cities gleam
Undimmed by human tears!
Stars shed its lights in thee!
Till selfish gain no longer stain,
The banner of the free!
The Original U.S. Pledge of Allegiance (1892 – 1923): “I pledge allegiance to my Flag and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
Amended national Pledge of Allegiance pre-1954 (1923 – 1954): “I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
The United States of America was born, originated, and founded as a secularist nation within this world. Maybe you weren’t taught this in grade school or middle school or, even, high school. Maybe you had to go to college to learn this and, maybe, even here you didn’t learn about this. If you weren’t, here is the secularist stance for this nation by three of its most notable originators:
“I believe in one God, and no more; and I hope for happiness beyond this life. I do not believe in the creed professed by the Jewish church, by the Roman church, by the Greek church, by the Turkish church, by the Protestant church, nor by any church that I know of. My own mind is my own church. All national institutions of churches, whether Jewish, Christian or Turkish, appear to me no other than human inventions, set up to terrify and enslave mankind, and monopolize power and profit.” – Thomas Paine, 1794, from his pamphlet “Age of Reason”.
Thomas Paine is the English immigrant whose 1776 pamphlet “Common Sense” inspired the American and French revolutions for democratic independence. – “Europe, and not England, is the parent country of America. This new world hath been the asylum for the persecuted lovers of civil and religious liberty from every part of Europe. Hither they have fled, not from the tender embraces of the mother, but from the cruelty of the monster; and it is so far true of England, that the same tyranny which drove the first emigrants from home, pursues their descendants still.”
“Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his god, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their “legislature” should “make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,” thus building a wall of separation between church and State. Adhering to this expression of the supreme will of the nation in behalf of the rights of conscience, I shall see with sincere satisfaction the progress of those sentiments which tend to restore to man all his natural rights, convinced he has no natural right in opposition to his social duties.” – Thomas Jefferson, January 1 1802
Thomas Jefferson created the Jefferson Bible, which is the life and teachings of the “human” Jesus of the Christian Bible, minus all supernatural references. He also borrowed from an Italian ‘Era of Enlightenment’ activist friend the concept of “all men are created equal” and that “they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights”, which is found in the U.S. Declaration of Independence. “Creator”, in this case, refers to the “God” of religious *Deism* which had taken root in Europe with the rise of scientific reasoning as the litmus test for determining immutable “natural laws” that govern reality.
“Allowing rights and immunities of citizenship. It is now no more that toleration is spoken of, as if it were by the indulgence of one class of people, that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights. For happily the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens, in giving it on all occasions their effectual support.” – George Washington, 1790, to Newport, Rhode Island’s first Jewish congregation
George Washington needs no introduction, yes? But, wait a minute, how well do you actually know his beliefs about life and about country? And how well do you know about his actions to perpetuate an independent secularist nation on the American continent, the nation that has become known as the United States of America?
“The phrase “separation of church and state” is commonly used to denote an expansive interpretation of the clause in the First Amendment to the United States Constitution that says: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.” In many decisions since 1947, the Supreme Court has held that the Establishment Clause means much more than merely preventing the government from favoring one religion over other religions. For example, in the 1968 case Lemon v. Kurtzman, the court said that the Establishment Clause means that any law must have a secular purpose, must not primarily advance or inhibit religion, and must not excessively entangle government and religion.” – Michael Prival
It is highly democratic and patriotic – and quite legal – to sit out reciting the Pledge of Allegiance until this theistic religious phrase is removed. A phrase never intended by this nation’s founders. But, more importantly, we need to return to the intent of the constitution and, just as importantly, actively seek for and protect the democratic civil liberties of every citizen in this country. Doing this begins with something as simple as this, making a public stance of being for the People by the People.
As someone who has made the choice to serve this country in armed uniformed service, as someone who has honorably fulfilled his duty under this choice, to preserve and protect the rights given us as citizens under the United States Constitution, I am naturally very concerned about over-stepping violations of these rights by government legislation. As citizens of the United States, we are an example setter for the rest of the world on democratic national governance and way-of-life. There should never be a time in which we allow religion to be part and parcel with our civil affairs, per the constitution, and there should never be a time we worship our flag or our national anthem. They are simply symbols that represent who we are and, when they no longer represent who we are as a pluralistic nation of citizens, then these symbols need to be changed to better reflect before the world who we are as a nation. As a military veteran, I stand behind the rights of those who challenge the inherent racism and nation worship that is connected to our representative national symbols. They are being patriotic, to make a vocal stand for a better more indivisible and more united country – that stands on social justice and truth and reconciliation within the United States of America!
As a reminder of our nation’s stand for liberty – “One Nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all” – let us from now on sing only the rarely heard and mostly unknown fifth stanza of this nation’s national anthem, this verse and this verse only from now on:
“When our land is illumined with Liberty’s smile,
If a foe from within strike a blow at her glory,
Down, down with the traitor that dares to defile
The flag of her stars and the page of her story!
By the millions unchained who our birthright have gained,*
We will keep her bright blazon forever unstained!
And the Star-Spangled Banner in triumph shall wave
While the land of the free is the home of the brave.”
– fifth stanza that was added to the Star Spangled Banner by Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. in indignation over the start of the American Civil War, and that was sung during this period by the Northern Unionists fighting for abolition and against Southern secession.
*-the new citizens by the freeing of chattel slaves
The very existence of this modern United States of America, from the chattel Slavery age to the convict leasing Industrial age to the school-to-prison pipeline modern High-Tech age, we owe significantly to the resilience and intelligence of our nation’s black Americans. It is black Americans who did the majority building of this country with their enslaved sweat and tears and, for those who’ve been “freemen” in history, with their publicly unrecognized, but well documented, creative intelligence. We also need to start respecting for the first time in U.S. history the First Nations of the land, the ones we violently took these lands from over the course of 397 years. #NativeLiveMatter and #BlackLivesMatter very much in the United States of America. So do #MuslismLivesMatter and #LatinoLivesMatter in the United States. And, while we’re at it, let’s not forget the very significant creative and cultural contributions that #LGBTQ lives and #EmpoweringWomen’s lives have made in this “land of the free and home of the brave.” It’s time for white society America to embrace this and embrace #RestorativeJustice and #TruthandReconciliation in the United States of America!