With hypocrisy and bombast for all

The socialist author of the Pledge rolls in his grave as the lascivious boors in Congress score cheap holiness points.

By Christopher Orlet
Published June 28, 2002 9:44PM (EDT)

Writing for the three-judge panel that overturned a 1954 act of Congress that inserted the phrase "under God" into the Pledge of Allegiance, Judge Alfred T. Goodwin of the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals noted, "A profession that we are a nation 'under God' is identical, for Establishment Clause purposes, to a profession that we are a nation 'under Jesus,' a nation 'under Vishnu,' a nation 'under Zeus.'"

Judge Goodwin may as well have added, a nation under Bile, Ler, Arianrod, Morrigu, Govannon, Gunfled, Sokk-mimi, Memetona, Dagda, Kerridwen and a thousand other gods man has venerated since he fled the primeval swamp.

The Pledge, of course, mentioned none of these impostors. Composed by the socialist Francis Bellamy, cousin of the utopian novelist Edward Bellamy, author of "Looking Backward," the Pledge was, according to biographer John Baer, essentially a love song to the Republic celebrating its core values of liberty and justice.

Until he was handed his hat and told to peddle his socialist mumbo jumbo elsewhere, Francis Bellamy was a Baptist minister in Boston, and chair of the National Education Association's Committee of State Superintendents of Education. During his tenure with the NEA, Bellamy was asked to prepare a public school program celebrating the quadricentennial of Columbus Day. The preacher set to work and structured a patriotic program around a salute and oath to Old Glory.

Thus, the Pledge was born.

Originally, Bellamy's Pledge ran: "I pledge allegiance to my flag and the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all." According to Baer, author of "The Pledge of Allegiance, A Centennial History, 1892-1992," the idea of "equality for all" had to be scrapped, presumably because the state superintendents of education were opposed to equality for women and minorities.

Since it was penned in August 1892, Bellamy's oath has been tampered with twice. In 1924, despite the author's protests, the National Flag Conference changed the phrase "my flag," to "the flag of the United States of America," seemingly so that godless communists could not hijack the Pledge and make it their own. And again in 1956, during the height of the Cold War, the Knights of Columbus, a usually harmless Catholic organization of grown men with swords, pressured Congress to include the phrase "under God." Bellamy was no longer around to protest -- not that it would have done any good -- but his granddaughter commented that the former preacher would not have been pleased.

The reaction to the court's June 26 opinion was loud and predictable. Immediately, politicos of every stripe attacked the court. The majority leader of the Senate, Tom Daschle, D-S.D., defended his opposition to the judiciary's decision with these memorable words: "This decision is just nuts." The persecution of the court continued apace when Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., rewarded Judge Goodwin's courage by calling him names, in particular an "atheist lawyer."

"I hope his name never comes before this body for any promotion, because he will be remembered," threatened the Christian Byrd. This may be interpreted as a good thing, as the judge will now be more likely to vote his conscience rather than cater to the schizophrenic whims of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

One by one, congressmen lined up to outdo each other in Christian patriotic boosterism. "Let us not wait for the Supreme Court to act on this," cried Sen. John Warner, R-Va. "Why don't we go ahead and formulate this amendment, put it together, have it in place, presumably with all 100 United States senators?"

From the Senate gallery, it appeared the Inquisition had returned in full force with President Bush playing the role of Cardinal Richelieu. White House spokesman Ari Fleischer, speaking at a summit Bush was attending in that heathen country to the north, announced: "This decision will not sit well with the American people. Certainly it does not sit well with the president of the United States."

Fleischer noted how the Supreme Court and U.S. Congress open each session with references to God, and how the Declaration of Independence refers to God or the Creator (or Divine Providence) four times. The Declaration of Independence also refers to "merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions." But it's best not to talk of such things.

In the illustrious halls of Congress, not one word of support was offered for the court's decision. Instead, plans were hatched to quickly repair the damage to the Republic by monkeying with the Constitution, as though Mr. Monroe's document were simply a rough draft. If there were one or two enlightened legislators who secretly applauded the decision, they were too cowardly to speak out, knowing it would mean an end to their careers as public servants and force the necessity of finding honest work.

Nor has it been commented upon that the Republic's keen sense of political correctness apparently extends to everyone except the godless. Even those of the Muslim faith are treated with more compassion than the skeptic. Fortunately for them, the Republic's sanction and promotion of religion is largely harmless. Etching "In God We Trust" on our currency is not quite the same as the Taliban butchering infidels in Afghanistan. Luckily, most atheists are highly civilized people and are able to look on the antics of their Christian brethren with a laughing eye. In fact, watching the boobs in Congress stumble over one another to be first to the podium to decry the court's decision is an amusing spectacle in itself. Obviously these politicians are simply milking this welcome opportunity to show off for their hometown church groups, a tactic that they -- I almost said pray -- that they hope will, at the end of the day, translate into a nice Election Night windfall. How many of the drunken, lascivious boors in Congress do you suppose really bend their knee at night, or mutter a prayer of thanks before dinner? I doubt you would find more than a handful.

Passage of a constitutional amendment, no doubt, is a sure thing. Unlike the recent attempt by aged veterans to save Old Glory from desecration, this amendment will have the backing of a unanimous Legislature. The American people will show up in hordes to overturn the infidel court. And once approved and safely on the books, the amendment will have the distinction of being the dumbest addition to the Constitution since the geniuses in Congress outlawed booze.

But if we insist on monkeying with Bellamy's pledge -- and we do -- shouldn't it be to include the word "equality"? I think the old boy would have approved of a version of his Pledge that ran: "I pledge allegiance to my Flag, and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with equality, liberty and justice for all."

OK, maybe it doesn't "flow" as well as the version just deemed unconstitutional. But it sure sounds better.

Christopher Orlet

Christopher Orlet’s essays and reportage have appeared in Salon.com, Global Journalist, The Utne Reader, The Guardian, Philosophy Now and CounterPunch.

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