Thursday, September 13, 2007

Why I do not recite the Pledge of Allegiance

Following is the text of a speech I delivered to my Toastmasters club today. Small portions have been edited out for brevity.

I am standing before you today to confess that I do not recite the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag, and have not done so in the last 17 years. My refusal to do so should not be construed as contempt, either for the flag or for the Republic for which it stands. When it is recited, I usually stand in silence, out of respect for the flag and for the others in the room.

The Pledge of Allegiance was written by Francis Bellamy as part of a public school program in celebration of Columbus Day 1892. His original pledge read,
“'I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
In later years, “my Flag” was changed to “the flag of the United States of America” and the words “under God” were added.

I have no problem with the phrase under God. I understand why atheists find it offensive, but since an overwhelming majority of the American people profess belief in a Supreme Being, the majority’s beliefs should be respected.

Anyone, anywhere, can swear loyalty to their nation. From 1933 to 1945, millions of Germans showed their enthusiastic loyalty by raising their arms and shouting “Heil Hitler!” So what is the moral difference between America today and Germany then? The difference lies in our loyalty, not to a flag or a territory, but to the ideas on which our nation was founded.

My throat sticks on the word indivisible. That is, I believe in the right of a State to secede from the Union. …

So, in Septemer 2007, why should anyone care?

The writers of our Constitution understood human nature. People want power; and given the opportunity, they would let their lust for power override their ideals and sense of fairness. Powerful people would want to strip away our liberties when those liberties became inconvenient for them. The Founding Fathers asserted that the States were sovereign, because, if the ultimate power were left to the States and to the people, that of the Federal Government would be limited. They held that the States, because they were closer to the people, would reflect their needs and beliefs, and would be more responsive to their will.

In spite of this, the Constitution faced heavy resistance from those who believed that an effective Federal Government was a threat to the rights of the States and the people – so much so that five states (New York, Virginia, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Texas) explicitly reserved to themselves the right to secede in their ratifications of the Constitution.

As a Georgia Supreme Court judge wrote in 1868 [dissent in Chancely v. Bailey and Cleveland, 37 Georgia Reports 532],
“If any prominent advocate of the Federal Constitution had … intimated an opinion, that by ratification of the Federal Constitution, the states surrendered their separate individuality and sovereignty as States, such was the extreme jealousy for the maintenance of State sovereignty, [that] such an opinion… would have led to the prompt and overwhelming rejection of that instrument.”
The idea that this nation is indivisible did not occur to anyone prior to the Civil War.

I will not recite the Pledge of Allegiance, because it violates the spirit of the Constitution that protects our freedom. Our own Ohio Constitution, in Article I, Section 2, states one of our most essential rights in this fashion:
“All political power is inherent in the people. Government is instituted for their equal protection and benefit, and they have the right to alter, reform, or abolish the same, whenever they may deem it necessary…”
Thus, by implication, the framers of our State Constitution agreed that our Republic is not “indivisible.” Secession is an essential right, to be used only as a last resort; to protect our people from a Federal Government when it becomes so powerful that it is no longer accountable to the people. To state that the Union is indivisible is to suggest that preservation of the Union is worth sacrificing our freedom. I do not believe this, and I hope you don’t either.

1 comment:

Dr. Dom said...

Very interesting and informative. I would have loved to hear this speech and I probably would have voted it for best speech, as content is paramount.

I can understand adding indivisible after the Civil War. I also agree with you about state's rights.

Perhaps "indivisible" in context of this pledge could imply by force or by external powers. A state seceding would be a voluntary act from within the country and actually a right permitted by the country.

Again, thank you and well done!