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The aforementioned case started out in a district court, went to the Court of Appeal, and ultimately ended up before the Supreme Court. In this instance, Newdow maintained that the oath contained the phrase "under God," which as a religious indoctrination of his child, violated the First Amendment Act. School District, on the other hand, countered that the term "under God" affirms that the nation was founded on the absolute conviction that there is God and that the pledge of allegiance takes no position regarding the existence of God. Therefore, it is controversial to acknowledge that the state is under God and yet believe that God does not exist (Prouser, 2005).
The school boards argued that the pledge of allegiance helped with the introduction of civic concepts to students that helped them to mature as good citizens. On the other hand, Sandra argued that the pledge of allegiance reflected the democratic beliefs of a diverse society. Further, she wanted her daughter to appreciate the recitation of the pledge of allegiance. Nevertheless, the federal administration disputed that the clause was not related to the religion. Instead, it was historical and traditional in nature (Prouser, 2005).
According to the Solicitor General, the “under God” clause was a formal acknowledgment of the country’s spiritual heritage just like the phrase “In God We Trust” on the United States bills and coins. The country had no intention to initiate a state-sponsored religion, and if the word god had not been spelled in capitals, it would have had a much more significant weight. Further, it was held that Newdow lacked the status to file a case since he was not the custodian of his daughter (Prouser, 2005).
Decision of the Supreme Court
The Supreme Court held that Newdow lacked the legal mandate to say to his daughter since they shared the custody of their daughter with his wife. Therefore, Newdow lacked standing to present a case before the courts. Nonetheless, Sandra appeared to have had much time in the upbringing of their daughter and had no objection to the phrase. The judges came to a consensus to reverse the decision of the Court of Appeal (Prouser, 2005).
The Impact of the Case on the American society and Ethics
The Supreme Court decision played a very critical role in the American society in general and on its ethics. The pledge of allegiance recitation strengthened both the obligation to God and American beliefs. The case brought about the importance of the national flag as a country’s symbol. Further, the flag is a symbol of the America’s proud traditions such as freedom of religious tolerance, freedom of equal opportunity and the freedom of goodwill of other individuals who share the objectives of others (Idleman, 2005).
The public acknowledgment of the ideals that the country’s flag symbolizes serves as a significant boost to the pledge of allegiance. The recitation of the pledge of allegiance may be deemed as a patriotic exercise which aims at fostering pride and national unity. The pledge of allegiance was introduced in the middle of the World War II, where the President signed it. However, 12 years later, Congress revisited the Pledge of Allegiance where it added the “under God” words. The reason behind adding the words was that in the history of the American society, the people and institutions had reflected the aspect that the Nation had been established on an ultimate belief in God (Idleman, 2005).
The California law commands every public elementary school to commence each day with the appropriate patriotic exercise such as the recitation of the Pledge of allegiance. Hence, the Elk Grove Unified School District had executed the state law by wanting each class to recite the pledge of allegiance. Nevertheless, students who oppose the act based on spiritual grounds have the permission to desist from the recitation. This phenomenon shows that everyone is accorded the freedom to worship (Mitchell & Parker, 2008).
Despite the Congress arguing that the “under God” clause meant not to create a religion, it promotes monotheism in a way. Moreover, the decision by the Supreme was based on the fact that Sandra had no objection to the clause. Additionally, in the case it is evident that Sandra had the full custody of their child, hence qualified as the legal representative of the child. Also, Newdow and Sandra were not in good terms since they had a prolonged fight. This argument illustrates the importance of high ethical relationships amongst families. More so, were it not for the split relationship between Sandra and Newdow, the court would have reversed its decision (Dixon, 2017).
Lastly, the above case shows that the right of privacy and the freedom of religious expression are correlated in a way that favors both. The laws of anti-establishment, of religion and laws of parental privacy are entirely concerned with the violations of specific forms of human dignity and personhood that threaten a person’s independence and free will. In the context of the public school, the alleged violations of the establishment clause must be judged based on the coercive affinity of learner participation in a religious exercise sponsored by the school and the strength of the parental right of privacy (Dixon, 2017).
A school-sponsored religious exercise cannot surpass constitutional scrutiny, especially where an extensively perceived parental right of privacy is at a risk. As this right becomes more stringent, the tolerance of the court reduces concerning its evaluation of the magnitude of compulsion allowed in a spiritual exercise facilitated by an insitution. There is always a thin line between the religious indoctrination and ceremonial celebration. Therefore, children should not be forced into vowing to God, especially those who are in public schools (Dixon, 2017). It should be out of an individual’s will to participate in the vow.
Reciting of the Pledge of Allegiance as a Religious Issue or a Sign of Respect
When a person recites the pledge of allegiance, it does not amount to a religious concern. Instead, it shows their respect for the country. The underlying factor of the pledge is to show patriotism and commitment in the United States. The phrase “under God” signifies the role that the almighty has played in the entire nation in terms of constitutional development, policy foundation, and formulation. The recitation of the pledge is permissible in most public institutes since it is not a violation of the Lemon test and has no effect on the issues of religion. The main concern of the 1954 amendment was to enlighten the society on the traditional aspects and concepts that the country was originated by God, who is deemed as the creator (Mitchell & Parker, 2008).
The recitation of the pledge which acknowledges that the nation is ‘under God’ is neither a simple recognition that every American believes in a deity nor is it a simple definition of the historical relevance of the Christian religion. Instead, recitating the pladge means swearing allegiance to values the flag holds. Examples of values represented by the flag include justice, unity, indivisibility, and liberty. Additionally, the recitation is a promise of participants to practice loyalty to the Flag and the nation and not any particular church, belief or Divinity (Dixon, 2017).
In any given situation, the intentional recitation of the pledge can at no time fit in the injunction of the establishment clause. Furthermore, allusions to God are all evident in the founding documents of the United States, for example, the National Motto, official currency, public buildings and National Anthem. Logic would dictate that the evidence in all the civic documents does not amount to the violation of the First Amendment, any less or more does the phrase contained in the pledge of allegiance. The phrase “under God” should not attract any debate as it does not detract the citizens from understanding the pledge as an expression of the love of the country as well as patriotism and not as an exercise of religious nature (Dixon, 2017).
Whether Public Schools Should be Allowed to Recite the Pledge
The recitation of the pledge should be allowed in public schools since it would be an agreement that they do believe in their own country as a Republic. Within this context, the Republic does not mean the government. Instead, it is a definition of the constitution and the principles put forth by their founding fathers. The pledge gives children an insight of what their country is all about. If a nation lacks teachings based on the principles that it holds, then it would be a divided one. When children grow up with a pledge of allegiance, it helps the institutions that they will administer in the future to become honest in their mode of service delivery to an ordinary citizen (Mitchell & Parker, 2008).
The pledge of allegiance recitation in public schools should be allowed for public institutions hold individuals of different color or religion. Therefore, the recitation bestows value amongst children, such values like pride where everyone would boast about the true heritage of their country. The pride of a nation comes with some moral norms; hence no one would like issues like corruption which are a source of moral downfall. If everyone is proud of their own country, then no one would like to participate in activities that spoil a nation’s reputation. A country can only be corrupt if individuals allow it to happen (Mitchell & Parker, 2008).
Today, the pledge of allegiance has become a source of debate rather than a decree of patriotism to the nation. Occasionally, the flag salute has been castigated as an unimportant part of the education curriculum. The primary argument is that it infringes the First Amendment act as well as drawing prejudice against other religions. Contrary to these accusations, a salute to the flag of the United States is a very simple act of patriotism and not a violation of rights. The national flag plays a critical role in representing the American nation. Thus, abstaining from saluting it would be termed as committing an enormous disservice to the country and the millions of citizens who fought to protect the nation’s rights and beliefs in the battle. The recitation of the pledge should be allowed in public schools as it is a very critical part of the American tradition that should not be taken for granted (Mitchell & Parker, 2008).
Pledging allegiance to the national flag should be taken as an obligation. A majority of people may disregard this as things we assume on a day to day basis. To eradicate the pledge of allegiance entirely from public schools would mean forgetting a piece of the American society that is aligned with the national anthem, and which would fade if not taught to the future generations (Mitchell & Parker, 2008).
It has been a dozen of years since the terrorist attacks in the United States, but still, a lot of questions have been directed to the world of education. The events of that year bring about the reawakening of allegiance and patriotism in the United States. There has been a lot of debate on teaching the recitation of the pledge and patriotism in public institutes. The allegiance is deemed to occur more persistently and naturally at the scale of the nation compared to other scales. The question of how educators should redirect this affinity in public schools has become an intriguing topic for the philosophers and educators. The philosophers and educators argue the greatest human allegiance is to one’s nation. Therefore, the recitation should be allowed in public institutes (Mitchell & Parker, 2008).
Dixon, R. (2017). Pledging to God While Getting a Public Education: Why a Wall of Separation Divides Ceremonial Celebration. Journal of Catholic Studies, 147-200.
Idleman, S. C. (2005). The Concealment of Religious Values in Judicial Decision making. Virginia Law Review, 515-534.
Mitchell, K., & Parker, W. C. (2008). I Pledge Allegiance To . . .Flexible Citizenship And Shifting Scales. Teachers College Record, 775-804.
Prouser, R. (2005). Elk Grove Unified School District v. Newdow. Journal of Gender, Social Policy & the Law, 1-26.
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