In “Let’s bypass politics as usual” (Sept. 4), Laurel E. LaFramboise claims that our Founding Fathers were the authors of the phrase “one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” It is actually part of the current version of the Pledge of Allegiance, originally called the Pledge to the Flag, which was written by Ralph Bellamy in 1892, more than 100 years after the Founding Fathers signed the Constitution. The words “under God” were added in 1954 at the behest of various religious organizations as well as several congressmen.
The Supreme Court has ruled that “under God” in the pledge does not constitute a violation of the First Amendment. When people state that God exists, they are simply espousing religious beliefs. Therefore, when the United States government incorporated “under God” in its pledge, it accepted these beliefs and, consequently, endorsed monotheistic religions.
The Constitution, the basis of all of the laws in the United States, contains no reference to any god or other deity because the Founding Fathers understood that religion can be a polarizing and divisive force. They concluded that the best way to provide for the common good was to form a secular government.
Ms. LaFramboise continues by maintaining that “today God is not allowed in public schools” and that “prayer is frowned upon at public events.” The religious right and various conservative organizations persist in perpetuating the lie that the Supreme Court outlawed all prayers in public schools. Individuals do have the right to pray there on a voluntary basis in a nondisruptive way.
In the 1962 Engel v. Vitale decision, the court ruled that public school- and government-sponsored prayers do violate the First Amendment. By requiring a captive audience to listen to prayers, even nondenominational ones, including those delivered by students at graduations, for example, that school, which is government-funded, would indeed bring about a government-established religion. Public schools have to be inclusive and have to protect the rights of all people, including religious minorities and nonbelievers, equally.
A paid (Christian) preacher has opened each session of Congress with a prayer since 1789. This has to be the epitome of hypocrisy. James Madison, the father of the Constitution, strongly opposed this practice. The United States may be a nation of mostly Christians, but that does not mean that it is a “Christian nation.”
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