Not Eudora  By Harry Welty
Published March 20, 2003

One Nation, Under Allah, Indivisible

I pledge allegiance, to the flag of the United States of America and to the republic for which it stands, one nation, under Allah, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

This is the "Pledge" that I recited at tonight’s Duluth School Board meeting. For the last four years the Board has said the “Pledge” immediately after calling the roll. Until this evening I’ve always said the more familiar Pledge with “God” in it. Until we've sorted things out in Iraq I'll be reciting this amended version as a gesture of good will to the Islamic world. It’s a reflection of my hope that America will not stumble into a second Cold War this time with Islamic fundamentalism rather than communism.

As an agnostic (a person who hasn't decided what to make of God) it won’t be terribly wrenching for me to substitute Allah for God. Besides, I grew up during the ecumenical movement of the 1960's when many Christian denominations held hands and sang kumbayah together in a show of unity. I'm inclined to think that the world’s major religions have pretty much the same objective. As far as I'm concerned God, Yahweh, Allah, and the Great Spirit are just different names for the same being/phenomenon. Because the First Amendment to the Constitution forbids Congress from writing any "…law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof" it seems logical that every American should feel free to insert their own preferred deity into the Pledge of Allegiance.


I haven't always felt this way. For a few years I was a purist about the “Establishment Clause” and omitted the phrase "under God" when reciting the Pledge but I've gotten over that. Today I rather like the idea that there is something more compelling than the mere creation of human kind including even America's marvelous Constitutional government. If I was an atheist I would probably still omit "God" however, I’ve never been able to muster the intellectual rigor that atheism requires.

It turns out that editing the Pledge isn't all that unusual. In 1924 "of the United States " was officially added following the word "flag." "Under God" was added by Congress in 1954 when America was hysterical about "Godless communism." Today some pro-lifers add "born and unborn" to the end of the standard Pledge, while some liberals add "with equality" before the phrase "liberty and justice." In fact, the author of the Pledge, a Baptist minister, wanted to include "equality" in the Pledge.  Unfortunately, the idea of granting equality to women or black Americans back in 1892 was far too radical.

The Pledge is currently embroiled in court.  California's notoriously liberal 9th Court of Appeals ruled it "unconstitutional" last year because of "under God." Predictably, irate congressmen have introduced a Bill to break up the 9th District and teach its rascally judicial activists a lesson.

I'm not sure how critical it is for the nation to have a Pledge. Neither George Washington or Abraham Lincoln ever recited it, yet no one doubts their loyalty to the nation. I doubt that my Grandfather, who was five before the Pledge was written, ever recited it during his public school years. Still, that didn't stop him from enlisting in the Army when America went to war in 1918. Neither did God’s absence from the pledge in 1944 stop my Father from enlisting in the Navy. A lot of Americans in Arlington Cemetery never heard of the Pledge of Allegiance.

I suspect that America ’s 3 to 6 million Moslems have to swallow hard when reciting the Pledge as it is now written. It does seem to imply that a Christian God, not a Moslem God, rules the land. While some Christians might try to assure American Moslems that the word "God" is simply generic I’ll bet a lot of Christians would choke before reciting a Pledge with "Allah" in it. Frankly, Americans of all faiths should feel free to say the Pledge with a term that is appropriate to their particular religious circumstance. Native Americans could say "Great Spirit," devout Jews could say Yahweh etc. I'm not sure what practitioners of religions without a monotheistic deity would feel comfortable saying but I'd leave it up to them to insert "Karma," "Golden Rule," or whatever fits their faith. Even Atheists should feel free to add a phrase that appeals to their conscience.

Now that the U.S. in on the verge of war we have an opportunity to rethink the profound religious implications of our Pledge. An exclusionary Pledge fails to honor our Founding Fathers' intense desire to free us from the contagion of religious hatred. So, for the foreseeable future, I'm putting Allah in the Pledge. I hope that Allah smiles on the land of the free and the home of the brave.

Welty is a small time politician who lets it all hang out at www.snowbizz.com