The squabble over the Pledge of Allegiance has entered my home state of Rhode Island. Coventry High School senior Joseph S. Marketos Jr has taken center stage for his refusal to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance, an act of defiance he claims started when he was in the 6th grade. According to Marketos, he doesn't believe in God, believes the minimum wage is too low, and doesn't like President Bush. Therefore, he refuses to recite the Pledge of Allegiance. (Providence Journal: Student standing up for not standing up - Projo.com requires free registration).
Not surprisingly, the ACLU - an organization founded in 1920 by card-carrying communist Roger Baldwin - has championed Marketos' case. According to Rhode Island ACLU chapter head Steven Brown, "A student's right to silently dissent form a coerced patriotic exercise like this lies at the heart of the First Amendment." Brown is technically correct. The First Amendment does grant Marketos the right not to recite the Pledge of Allegiance. I wouldn't argue with that. In fact, any pledge or oath recited under coercion is a non-binding oath in the first place. So certainly, reciting the Pledge of Allegiance should be optional.
Let's stop and look at the very title of the oath, however. It is a Pledge of Allegiance. It is an oath that we, as Americans, take that represents our allegiance to the United States of America. Anyone who refuses to pledge allegiance to the United States, by definition, effectively renounces their US citizenship. You can't have it both ways! Either you are a US citizen and therefore pledge allegiance to the United States, or you refuse to pledge allegiance and therefore are not a citizen.
Should reciting the Pledge of Allegiance be required in our schools? No, I don't believe it should. Requiring it would actually cheapen the oath itself. Rather, our schools should do a much better job of teaching what that oath means and what the Pledge signifies. What should be required, however, is a Pledge of Allegiance by every American citizen. One who refuses to pledge allegiance to this nation should - and must - be stripped of US citizenship.
Citizenship in this great nation is something too many Americans take for granted. They believe that citizenship is a right, not a privilege. They flaunt their right to free speech, while at the same time spit on the very principles that forged the document that grants Americans that right.
The Pledge of Allegiance is not about the phrase "under God." It's not about minimum wage, or whether or not you support the current president. It's about your allegiance to the United States of America. If you're not willing to make that pledge, then you are undeserving of US Citizenship.
There is an oath that is required of everyone when they become American Citizens by any method other than birth. I believe that oath should be professed by ALL Americans, not just foreign born ones. To take that Oath of Citizenship, raise your right hand and repeat after me:
I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen; that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by law; that I will perform noncombatant service in the Armed Forces of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform work of national importance under civilian direction when required by the law; and that I take this obligation freely without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; so help me God. In acknowledgement whereof I have hereunto affixed my signature.
Of course, that's a bit long to recite on a daily basis. Feel free to use the short form:
I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands. One nation, under God, indivisible, with Liberty and Justice for all.