A Response to Mario
A defense of the pledge
By Scott Gillette

When the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals made its ruling on the pledge of allegiance, I didnít think I would be writing about it. Iím not a topical writer; itís not my style. Moreover, the topic did not lend itself to my particular interests. However, Mario Giardielloís column has prompted me to change course.

Letís start with some basics. First, our Founding Fathers and Framers, some of whom were deists and indeed skeptics, nevertheless understood that God must enter the picture if we are to establish a limited government. We are a nation dedicated to the proposition that human beings have natural rights that can never be taken away, ever. Who establishes these rights? Well, Jefferson said that they are "endowed by our Creator." He knew what he was saying. For if man establishes rights, what would be the justification against dictatorship? This is no wishy-washy faith.

Mario is right that the Knights of Columbus brought the phrase under God into the pledge. But remember that communism had to eliminate God from their societies for a reason. Any faith in God holds that an individual has a higher calling than to the state, and that would be intolerable in the Soviet Union, Maoist China, and scores of other places. The phrase under God not only affirmed what we were for in 1954, but what we opposed in "the long, twilight struggle."

Now letís say that you donít buy this. Fair enough. You should not be coerced to subscribe to this view. The government should protect atheists and communists alike, provided that they donít deprive others of their Constitutional rights.

However, to decree that God cannot be invoked is to establish a religion of "non-religion." To establish that God will not be spoken is as coercive as to decree that God will be spoken. This is because atheism is a religion, as much as any other faith, because it is pure speculation, without a shred of evidence. So people should be able to choose for themselves whether or not they wish to invoke God.

Therefore, individuals should be able to decide for themselves on whether they want to say the pledge. There have been recent judicial rulings affirming this very point.

But should society consecrate a ritual that invokes God? Isnít that unfair to those who donít believe in God? It is here that individuals who reject the pledge begin to overstate their case. They believe that not only do individuals have the right not to say the pledge, but also they are free from feeling uncomfortable, so nobody can say the pledge. Mario clearly holds this position. "How would a young, confused atheist boy in second grade feel when everyone is praying and pledging their allegiance to God? Left out, and weird."

Well, tough on them. There is no right anywhere in the Constitution that says individuals are given the right to feel comfortable, and not feel left out and weird. It is axiomatic that dissenting minorities on a host of issues should be able to express their views without being coerced by the dominant majority. But what Iíve noticed is that many dissenting, "principled" minorities are not satisfied with that. They feel entitled to impose their will on the majority. Life doesnít, or shouldnít, work that way.

Iíve written columns before that articulate a minority position on one issue or another. Expect more of these columns from me in the future. But I would never have the audacity to consider my views as having any authority beyond their ability to persuade. The right to dissent does not confer the right to prevail.

Iím somewhat surprised that I have to point these things out, albeit it is to a small minority of people. Well, sometimes people should be reminded of certain things, whether they are willing to listen or not.

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