local weather Click for Sun Valley, Idaho Forecast
 front page
 last week
 express jobs
 about us
 advertising info

 sun valley guide
 real estate guide
 sv catalogs



Produced & Maintained by Idaho Mountain Express, Box 1013, Ketchum, ID 83340-1013 
208.726.8065 Voice
208.726.2329 Fax

Copyright © 2002 Express Publishing Inc.
All Rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of Express Publishing Inc. is prohibited. 


Mountain Jobs

Formula Sports

Idaho Conservation League



Edmark GM Superstore : Nampa, Idaho

Premier Resorts Sun Valley

High Country Property Rentals

For the week of July 17 - 23, 2002

Opinion Columns

Faith is a private matter

Commentary by JoEllen Collins

Woe be it if we are forced to mirror the beliefs of others who may publicly bandy about their concept of God’s values.

I am not one of those bothered much by the recent California court decision to consider the Pledge of Allegiance unconstitutional because of the inclusion of the words "one nation under God."

In all the resultant hoopla, I fear that many Americans have forgotten that this was not a composition of our founding fathers, nor any document that we should necessarily treat with kid gloves.

In 1892, a Boston magazine published a few words for students to repeat on that year’s Columbus Day. Written by Francis Bellamy, the magazine’s circulation director, the Pledge was reprinted in leaflets and sent out to thousands of public schools across the country.

During the first National Flag Conference in 1923, the Pledge was amended; the words "the flag of the United States of America" replaced the more general "my flag." It wasn’t until 1942 that Congress officially recognized the Pledge of Allegiance, followed by a 1943 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that schoolchildren could not be forced to read it.

Today only half of our 50 states encourage its reading in schools. We should also remember that the words "one nation under God" were not originally intended to be part of the piece. I grew up in the fifties and I well recall the addition of those words during the Eisenhower presidency.

In the Cold War years, the government was mounting a fierce battle against atheistic communism. Eisenhower said, "In this way we are reaffirming the transcendence of religious faith in America’s heritage and future; …we shall constantly strengthen those spiritual weapons which forever will be our country’s most powerful resource in peace and war."

These words were stirring at the time, a time when many American citizens feared being overpowered by an "ungodly" superpower. Whenever we said "one nation under God" at our school, we seemed to pause dramatically, emphasizing the words set off from the rest of the Pledge. Then, as seems to happen with many oaths, we took the words for granted. Nonetheless, I still pause there, reflecting the commas around the phrase, whenever I recite the Pledge of Allegiance.

I was raised in a family where Sundays were devoted to church activities and both of my parents were elders in the Presbyterian Church. Even so, I recall always being a bit bothered by having to mouth those words, as though I needed to impress a benevolent uncle with my faith by proclaiming it in public. It seemed arbitrary to me even then, and I identified with groups who were offended at having to join others in state-imposed pledges or prayers. Parents and the clergy are responsible for one’s development of faith, not schools or public gatherings where the Pledge may be read.

I admit to being so patriotic that I am absolutely corny about holidays like the Fourth of July, and I well remember one of them I observed at Arlington Cemetery. I could almost feel the flags popping out of my ears when "Taps" was played. I am not cynical and deeply value the principles under which I have matured. I am eternally grateful that I was born in the USA and will defend my country against most criticism. Even when I disagree with some of the excesses of democracy, I am still proud to call myself an American. Nonetheless I still fear any overly zealous public testing of one’s of patriotism.

I’ve always believed that faith is a private matter, and I am suspect of societies where a public proclamation of one’s loyalty to the divine is necessary. If one has to conform to a state’s version of a higher power, then I fear for those who hold divergent views.

I also think that we should be wary of thinking that a public expression of religious faith has anything to do with the morality of the person espousing the phrases. I was confirmed in that feeling when I saw a young and beautiful girl holding up a banner in Boise recently that stated "God Hates Fags."

Woe be it if we are forced to mirror the beliefs of others who may publicly bandy about their concept of God’s values.

Another corner of my consciousness is disturbed that our patriotic fervor may stifle unpopular views, leading to a perversion of the very foundations upon which our government is based. I am allowed privacy in the voting booth, and I think that privacy should extend to my religious convictions.

Finally, if we need to recite the words "one nation under God" in order to keep intact the standards and ideals of our democracy ¾ if abandoning those words leads us down the path of depravity and corruption as has been suggested ¾ then we are truly in deep trouble. That reasoning assumes that we hold very fragile, if not shallow, beliefs. Surely we can have a strong democracy without this kind of rote conformity.

The next time you recite the Pledge of Allegiance, think about it without those words. Is the message really diminished? Instead of "one nation under God," perhaps we should try other words, just to see what message is being conveyed.

For example, how about saying "one nation whose inhabitants respect all creeds." There the true nature of our melting pot emerges, the indivisible nation composed of tolerant people.


The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.