Oh Not This Again

All those tired of the entire “God in schools” debate, please raise your hand. I am. I was tired of it when Michael Newdow raised a huge stint about it back in my home state of California years ago.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m still a liberal, I didn’t all of a sudden turn into a card carrying member of the Christian Right overnight. I personally would be less than thrilled if someone forced my daughters to pray at school or even force her to pledge allegiance under God against their own personal spiritual beliefs. That’s not the public school’s place, as far as I’m concerned; I send my daughter to school to learn how to read and write and do maths and stuff like that, not to learn or worship God. If that’s what I wanted her doing, I would send her to church or a private school.

I’m just tired of the whole argument, that’s all. It’s been a long while since we’ve had a major flap over the “under God” thing with the pledge of allegiance, as well as the whole ten commandments at the court house. I had hoped that particularly absurd part of the role of religion in the public square debate had died a nice and quiet death.

I guess I was wrong.

Texas just recently added to its now over seventy year old pledge of allegiance to the state flag the phrase, “one state under God”.

Even more absurd is that if a student is caught not uttering these words, that student must have a note from home explaining he or she has permission to do so. This is not even in keeping with the mandate on federal employees today.

I’ve taken an oath to defend this country three times; twice as a member of the United States Navy, and once as a civillian employee. Before you do this, however, you are informed by the officiator performing the ceremony that you may at your own personal wish replace “swear” with “affirm” and you are free to omit the final phrase, “So help me God”. Personally, I made the change and omission the first time I took the oath, and actually employed the religious language the other two times.

I didn’t even need a note from my mommy saying it was okay to do so.

Admittedly, I had a relatively free upbringing in regards to spirituality. My mother, not particularly religious in those days, only took steps to ensure that I treated the religion of others’ with respect and regard. A young professed atheist such as myself I would often speak ill of religion, especially christianity, which would often result in rapid blowback from my deceptively tiny mother.

My father, on the other hand, had a deeply religious background. He was a catholic, his father had in fact helped build one of the earlier catholic churches in Livermore California. My dad grew up in that church, and was for some time an altar boy. But his early religiosity didn’t survive to my early family life. But the time I was old enough to discuss with him concepts of God and such, he took a stance not terribly unlike my mother’s, religion is something you have to come to on your own.

I’ve held that belief pretty closely. After spending much of my thirty years exploring the many religions of the world, I would have to say that at this point in my life I would describe myself as a deist, perhaps the one “faith” I could hold to that enriches me spiritually without compromising my world view that I hold with equally strong faith and belief.

Though I despise the argument of prayer in schools and forcing our kids to pledge allegiance “under God”, it’s an important one to consider when it comes up. It is by our modern culture, inherently wrong; founding fathers such as Jefferson, also a deist, had a vast multitude of reasons to attempt to erect a wall between church and state, and freedom from religion is exactly one of those reasons.

We shouldn’t have to send our children to a school where they will be essentially forced to not only be exposed to a religious doctrine, but actually participate goes against this very simple principle, and there’s no real good argument against this. You can’t say we all believe in God because we don’t. Hell, Mr. Tedesco’s a Buddhist, which has its own funky takes on God that he would have to tell you about.

I’m a deist, I believe in God, but not necessarily in the messianic nature of Christ, nor in the bible or even miracles. Whatever grace America has is not from God’s will, but from the whatever luck, skill, and providence we were able to use to carve this little niche out for ourselves. (Further note, if you are particularly careful, you will notice that whenever I offer my condolences, I never say I pray for anyone, or that I offer prayers or any such thing. This stems from my belief system)

Another friend of mine, Cernig of the Newshoggers, is a Pagan who has really not a whole lot to do with the Christian God. We are all fathers, and I like to think good people who raise our children to be good and just, and we all have differing spiritual paths that we wish for our children to take.

That’s our right, and the way in which Texas has just ammended this phrase is an infringement of this right.

Now, I want to be clear on this little issue right here. While I’m not particularly fond of the phrasing, I’m not so ignorant to think that I could have it removed without incident, or even with any hope of success. Therefore, I’m largely unbothered by the whole under God thing. Pledge of Allegiance, on the dollar bill, whatever. I know how to pick my battles, and that’s just not one worth picking at this time.

On the other hand, what I do take issue with is the whole note thing. I don’t mind the under God phrase, so long as it’s perfectly okay not to say it. But that’s not what is happening here. The mere act itself implies wrongdoing, but worse, there is a social aspect that I think was either ill considered, not considered at all, or at the worst malevolently considered.

What bothers me the most is that the requiring of a note is at opening the doors for children to be criticized and ridiculed for their difference of faith, or lack of faith completely. Christianity is by far the majority in this country, and we’ve seen that often it can be used as an excuse for some pretty deplorable behavior. Throw into the mix the callousness of school age children, and the note all of a sudden becomes a disturbing incentive for negative behavior.

Even more worrying, however, is the nature of subjugation that surrounds the act. You have to have a note to express or not express your beliefs that differ from the standard. You have to be documented and excused. This doesn’t sound to me like the actions of a free and equal people, particularly of a free and equal people that have had a very long and troubled history on the subject.

And through it all, there is a hint of something far more sinister and ugly about the whole mess, making me exceptionally glad I don’t live in Texas.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Connect with Facebook