The U.S. Air Force Academy has officially made it optional to say the words “so help me God” in its honor oath.
This was a smart move, as the Academy avoided taking the phrase out altogether and angering Christian followers while also not making it mandatory for people who do not swear in God’s name or are members of other religions.
Good for the Air Force, but what about other aspects of our government? Students in many public schools are expected to say the Pledge of Allegiance, including the phrase “under God,” every single day.
That’s 12 years of education and every day pledging your allegiance to something in which you may or may not believe. So why shouldn’t younger children be able to simply stand during the Pledge of Allegiance, or skip the phrase, “under God?”
When I was in school, some teachers got angry with students that wouldn’t speak the Pledge. I would mouth the phrase when I was in a small class, but in the years where I was in a larger classroom, I skipped it altogether. I received glares from nearby classmates who I had thrown off in the repeating drone of the Pledge. I imagine now that might not be as much of a scandal.
What about the phrase “under God” on all of America’s money?
I’m sure that once money is involved, this issue will grow exponentially. But what if the new dollar bills and coins simply didn’t have “under God” written on them? They would gradually replace the older dollars and coins. However, there is no way to really be inclusive of all the religions in the case of currency. It’s an all-or-nothing deal. The U.S. Constitution says that the government should be separated from religion.
The principles that made this country great may have originated from the predominant religion, but that doesn’t mean it should favor this religion over the next or the words of a philosopher over the word of the Christian Bible.
I am not “under God,” nor I do not want my government to favor Christianity and its teachings over other religions. This might lead to individuals becoming apathetic about the issues that surround other religions, because they don’t belong to and don’t understand those beliefs.
If the government keeps involving itself in religion, this may be ground for a large reform as great as the Civil War. For now, however, this issue remains buried in the public consciousness, behind health care, gay rights and the economy.
The military has treated this issue correctly. The rest of the government ought to be true to its own Constitution and remove instances of religious expression that are not optional.
Reach the columnist at firstname.lastname@example.org.