Mirror of Justice

A blog dedicated to the development of Catholic legal theory.
Affiliated with the Program on Church, State & Society at Notre Dame Law School.

Thursday, March 25, 2004

Discomfort with the Pledge

I think one way to approach the pledge issue is to separate it into two distinct questions: first, do I think the Establishment Clause gives room for the democratic process to produce "religious" expressions like "under God" in the pledge? Second, would I vote to include the phrase "under God" in the pledge? On the first question, I believe the answer is yes (but like Rick, I have a hard time articulating a justification that does not "dumb down" religious commitment), but on the second question, I would undoubtedly say no.

My discomfort was driven home by observing my daughter in her first days of Catholic preschool. The teacher painstakingly taught the students how to recite the pledge, sing "God Bless America," and make the sign of the cross. Now each class begins with all three being done as one blended exercise -- leaving the distinct impression that the three are inherently connected and equal in importance. Isn't the same thing going on when students are led in a pledge of allegiance to the country, but also asked to tie that allegiance to a (rather vague) articulation of allegiance to God? By no means do I believe that love of country and love of God are inconsistent, but I do believe they are entirely separate states of devotion of distinctly unequal importance. This may be Stanley Hauerwas's (or Tom Shaffer's) impact on me, but I'm growing less comfortable with the civil-religious-patriotic strains of public life -- not because of constitutional concerns, but because of concerns over the continued vibrancy of religious devotion.

Rob

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