Ira PilgrimIRA'S CORNERFilename:N-program

September 25, 2003 (Ira Pilgrim)

Pledges, Oaths and Uniforms

History reveals that political freedom cannot exist in any nation where religion controls government and that religious freedom cannot survive in any nation where government controls religion.

Sam J. Ervin Jr. 1983

With the exception of a three year period of my life, I have been relatively free. Those three years were the years that I spent in the army. I still remember the sergeant, at the beginning of my army career: "Your heart belongs to your mother, but your ass belongs to me!" There was little difference between the American and German army. In fact, there is little difference between one army and another, other than the language spoken and the color of the uniform. The army's business is killing, and when soldiers aren't killing, they are drilling and practicing obedience.

The army and I did not see eye to eye and I fought it much of the time. As often happens to soldiers who buck the system, I ended up as an aid man in an infantry platoon. In the infantry, I felt free for the first time since I joined the army. The only problem was that my life was in danger. The German soldiers were trying to kill me and my buddies.

There are at least three things that, to me, symbolize the opposite of freedom. They are pledges, oaths and uniforms. They are all symbols, which means that they are not real. The word "dog" is a symbol of the animal and it doesn't bark or bite. Symbols are of little real significance, and therefore constitute a minor annoyance to a freedom-loving animal like me. I am free even though I am surrounded by symbols of subservience to god and country.

As a child I was required (forced is too strong a word) to stand and recite the pledge of allegiance. I was also required to wear a tie.

In 1954 the phrase "under God" was added to the pledge of allegiance. That phrase has now been declared, by a federal court, to be unconstitutional. That decision will probably be reviewed by the Supreme Court. The court can decline to review it, in which case it will remain unconstitutional and will be eliminated. The court can agree to review it, in which case anything can happen.

I believe that pledges, oaths and uniforms have no place in public schools. Pledging allegiance to a piece of cloth, even as a symbol, seems to me to be ridiculous. Pledging, worshipping or honoring a symbol seems ridiculous. They are relics of a time when church and state were one entity, which people were required to obey. The penalty for not doing so was often imprisonment, torture or death. The United States differs from Iran in that the US has, by law, a secular government, while Iran is a theocracy, a government by a specific church.. Our founding fathers definitely did not want a theocracy, nor a state religion. Ever since, there has been a constant attempt to subvert that principle, mostly by Christians, who happen to be in the majority. They have been unsuccessful, except where symbols and ceremonies are concerned. According to the World Almanac, there are 27.5 million nonreligious, and 1.6 million atheists in North America. They are a very small minority, but our secular government clearly has no constitutional right to force religion or its symbols on anyone.

History is full of nations and localities that have forced their religious beliefs on people who were not of their religion. This has been true of parts of this country. When I lived in Buffalo, NY it was not possible for a man to get a vasectomy because the Catholic Church was against it. A man who wanted one had to go out of the city. There are parts of this country where a woman cannot get an abortion, even when her life is endangered or she is bearing a child that will live for, at most, five years.

It has been a constant struggle between those who support a secular government and those who wish to destroy it and replace it with a theocracy.

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