Letter- Pledge a contradiction
To the editor:
The first amendment to the Constitution states: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.
In 1954, I was 10 years old. In school I had been learning about the Constitution. I was taught that the Constitution laid down the principles that would provide the basis for governing our new nation. The onstitution and the amendments spell out the rights of the people and the duties and limitations of the government. And anything outside of or circumventing the Constitution was now illegal. “Unconstitutional!”
The Declaration of Independence was just what its name implies. The declaration was directed at England, letting them know on no uncertain terms that their day in America was over. English law and authority would no longer be recognized as valid in the American colonies. Of course, the entire document and the sentiments behind it were completely
illegal under the existing law of the land. The authors of the Declaration had no legal basis for what they were saying and doing so they referred to “the creator” and “God given rights” to try to invoke some greater authority than the English law. After all, it would sound a little weak to say “By the authority of a small group o f colonists we are kicking you guys out.” So they borrowed God’s authority for the occasion. These guys were outlaws by any legal definition, so using lofty language was probably a good tactic.
I learned all that and more in school and I loved it. I did and I still do. All of it. As a boy of ten I felt passionately that it was right and good. So when the president, Eisenhower, signed onto the program of adding “under God” to the Pledge of Allegiance and “in God we trust” to the currency, I was righteously enraged. Still am. After that I quit saying the pledge. Got kicked out of school for that little act of defiance. I decided that was unconstitutional. I was already a citizen; I’d made the pledge plenty of times before, so why were these Nazis trying to force me to do it every day of school?
Why did I think it was unconstitutional for them to coerce me into making a pledge? Because it violated my freedom of speech, that’s why. If you
can say what you want, according to the First Amendment, who has the authority to compel you to say what you don’t want? Nobody.