Being Canadian, I can’t quote any part of the Pledge of Allegiance without looking it up. (Thanks, Wikipedia, for the rundown of how many times the Pledge has changed over the years, and when.)
On Monday, Sept. 8th, the American Humanist Association started this movement to urge people to remain seated during the pledge as a means of protesting the inclusion of the words “under God,” which were added to the pledge in 1954. The Knights of Columbus (via the wiki page: “the world’s largest Catholic fraternal service organization”) came up with the idea to add it a few years earlier and the idea caught on like wildfire. They claim they got it from a line in the Gettysburg address but in 2004 a linguist named Geoffrey Nunberg suggests they did it wrong. Amusing if true.
The original supporters of the addition thought that they were simply quoting Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. However, Nunberg said that to Lincoln and his contemporaries, “under God” meant “God willing” and they would have found its use in the Pledge of Allegiance ungrammatical.
Though not all manuscript versions of the Gettysburg Address contain the words “under God”, all the reporters’ transcripts of the speech as delivered do, as perhaps Lincoln may have deviated from his prepared text and inserted the phrase when he said “that the nation shall, under God, have a new birth of freedom.”
Onto the Don’t Say the Pledge website:
With “under God” added, the Pledge is not a statement of patriotism. Instead, extremist preachers and politicians point to the language to validate their view that those who don’t believe in God don’t belong.
Until the Pledge is restored to its inclusive version, we can take it upon ourselves to refuse to participate in what’s become a discriminatory exercise. (Note: A Supreme Court case – West Virginia vs. Barnette –gives public school students the absolute right to sit out the Pledge, for any reason. Public schools might not tell you about this right, but if anyone questions you about sitting out the Pledge, contact the AHA’s Legal Center.)
The Wikipedia article touches on that, too. Part of it centered around Jehovah’s Witnesses and their belief that standing for the flag was akin to idolatry and thus forbidden in their faith. First the courts wanted to force the kids to stand and pledge but later rulings reversed that decision.
Probably a lot of people would rather sit than stand for this pledge but stand because they fear judgment from peers and authority figures.
On the god and Canada side of things, our national anthem mentions “God keep our land, glorious and free” and there have been murmers around about wanting to edit God out of that line. On Canada Day (July 1st, you foreigners) a 9 year old made a name for herself by replacing God with Please in her version. It did not go over well if this report can be believed.
Her father explains Selaena’s reasoning to sing “please” as follows:
She wanted to be inclusive, given that her and a lot of her friends don’t even know what ‘god’ is. My children are secular and neutral – free to make up their own minds when they are old enough to do so.
But, this alteration of the anthem led to organizers cancelling Selaena’s performance at a festival later in the month.
I realize that many people are offended by the removal of the word ‘god’ from the anthem, but they too must realize that in our multicultural society, the millions of Canadians that do not recognize any god or gods are equally offended by its inclusion. It was for this reason alone that my children have always sung the anthem this way – my daughter didn’t think she was doing anything that would be considered wrong. This will be my fight to have with the government, and has nothing to do with my daughter nor the CCC Festival.
It’s unlikely we’ll get God out of the anthem any time soon. In 2010 requests were made to change the lyrics, “true patriot love in all thy sons command,” to something less man-centric.
“We offered to hear from Canadians on this issue and they have already spoken loud and clear. They overwhelmingly do not want to open the issue,” said Dimitri Soudas, a spokesman for the Prime Minister’s Office. “The government will not proceed any further to change our national anthem.”
If we ever get rid of Harper, maybe we can try again…