Do You Really Want to Pledge Allegiance to the Flag?
by Harry Browne
July 4, 2002
The California ruling that the Pledge of Allegiance can't be recited in government schools has given a much-needed lift to the conservative movement.
With George Bush devoted to increased spending on foreign aid, government schools, government health care, welfare, and every imaginable boondoggle, conservatives haven't had much to rally around.
But now they have a cause. They can trumpet their indignation, fret about the future of the country, and send out fund-raising letters galore. They have an issue.
A Google search of recent articles on the "Pledge of Allegiance" returned over 75,000 hits.
All this hysteria and alarm seems a bit strange, since tens of millions of Americans already oppose the ruling — and only one meager judge seems in favor of it.
The one thing being overlooked in all this is the reason the Founding Fathers created the 1st Amendment. They had no doubt that Americans could and would practice religion on their own, and so they were strongly opposed to agencies of government promoting religion in any way. In fact, an overwhelming number of colonists had come to America originally to escape state-sponsored religions in their home countries.
They knew that religion in government automatically meant government in religion.
Did the Founding Fathers intend for the 1st Amendment to keep religion out of the government schools?
How could they? There were no government schools — just as there was no government health care or foreign aid or corporate welfare or pork barrel projects.
They understood the tyranny that results when politicians and bureaucrats control the personal lives of citizens. And so they scrupulously limited government to a few functions they didn't believe could be handled outside of government.
In America's first century, there were only private schools — and most of them included some kind of religion without any controversy. But once the government moved into education in the mid-1800s, it was inevitable that religion in the schools would eventually become a constitutional issue.
But why should religion in some schools be a problem? Shouldn't you be able to choose between sending your children to a school that has prayer and one that scrupulously avoids it? You make similar choices in most other areas of your life.
The problem isn't education. Nor is it religion. The problem is government-run education. Wherever those with the most political power can impose their way on everyone else, you're bound to have pitched battles, acrimony, and enormous amounts of time wasted arguing over matters that each person should be allowed to decide for himself.
If the government ran the supermarkets, there would be bitter fights over whether the stores should sell kosher foods.
If government produced our computers, we probably couldn't access religious sites on the Internet. (Not to mention that your computer would be a Pentium .001 with 1K of RAM, a 78rpm phonograph record for your hard disk, and a megaphone instead of a modem.)
Anyone who thinks government should operate the supermarkets or produce computers is a candidate for a mental institution.
Why then would we want the government "educating" our children?
What the Pledge Is
Returning to the Pledge of Allegiance, it was composed in 1892 by Francis Bellamy, a socialist, specifically to help young children become good little citizens of the Fatherland.
The idea that our children should be pledging allegiance to government smacks of Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union — the very antitheses of what America was meant to be.
If you like big government, if you think people like Bill Clinton and George Bush are competent to make important decisions in your life, you might feel comfortable pledging allegiance "to the flag and to the republic [government] for which it stands."
But if you don't like politicians deciding how your children should be educated, how your doctor should treat you, or how much of your money African dictators are entitled to, maybe you should reconsider where you pledge your allegiance.
The Founding Fathers refused to pledge allegiance to a government that had "become destructive" of the "unalienable rights" of "Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness." They pledged "to each other" their Lives, their Fortunes, and their sacred Honor.
Shouldn't you be pledging your allegiance to yourself, your family, and your friends — to those who truly enhance your life?
And shouldn't you be pledging your allegiance to the concept of liberty — of freedom from a $2 trillion government in Washington and its look-alikes in state capitals?
That lovely lady in New York harbor with her torch held high isn't called the Statue of a Super Power, or the World's Policewoman — or the Statue of Big Government, Universal Health Care, or Compassionate Conservatism.
She's called the Statue of Liberty.
Isn't liberty — rather than a flag and its government — where your allegiance belongs?