September 7, 2013

Atheists Should Leave Country, Says Former Bush Press Secretary Dana Perino

Atheists who oppose the phrase “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance should leave the country according to Dana Perino, former press secretary to President George W. Bush.

Perino was on the Fox News show “The Five” and was responding to a lawsuit filed by atheist parents against the Acton-Boxborough School District. They are seeking to end recital of the pledge in classrooms because it supports religious indoctrination.

Opposing Views — The Fox News political roundtable program “The Five” took up the issue of the lawsuit Wednesday as well. Perino, a participant in the discussion, when asked how she felt about arguments that challenge religious references in government-sponsored ceremonies, said she was “tired of them.”

“Our representatives have spoken again and again, and if these people don’t like it, they don’t have to live here,” said the onetime Bush mouthpiece.

“Yeah, that’s a good point,” responded the show’s host, Bob Beckel.

Even if Perino may want to deny it, the United States has a clear separation of church and state, backed by multiple Supreme Court rulings. While I do not know if this is true of Perino, most people are unaware that the phrase “under God” was added to the pledge by right-wing reactionaries during the communist “red scare” of the 1950s.

The original pledge was penned by Francis Bellamy in 1892 and reads:

I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands, one nation indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

In 1923, “my Flag” was replaced with “the Flag of the United States.” Arguably this change was an earlier reactionary response because it was changed to make sure it was clear which “flag” people were pledging allegiance to during a time when America saw a growing stream of immigrants. A year later, “of America” was tacked on after “United States.” For the next three decades, this is the pledge children recited in schools:

I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

Then in 1954, the pledge was changed to its current form that includes the phrase “under God.” This change was, in part, a result of the growing Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union, and the fear of communism getting a foothold on American soil, known as the “Red Scare.” Adding a religious component to the pledge was in response to the godless Soviets. The pledge for the past six decades:

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.

The pledge has changed multiple times through history, so it’s hardly controversial to suggest another change in 2013. But how about this for a radical idea. Let’s do away with the pledge entirely! While I do have a problem with the “under God” phrase, just as I have a problem with “In God We Trust” on our money (another result of the 1950s reactionaries), I find it more objectionable that we feel the need to indoctrinate children by having them recite empty platitudes of subservient obedience. We should be teaching children how to think, not what to think. Maybe there’s nothing wrong with a judicious dose of patriotism, but I find the ritualized recital of the Pledge of Allegiance to be, well, creepy. We are asking our children to do something that we would be squeamish seeing children do in, say, North Korea. Just think about that for a moment.

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