Should the Words “under God” Remain in the Pledge if a Majority of Americans Want to Keep It?
General Reference (not clearly pro or con)
Editor’s Note: Since 2009 when this question was last reviewed for updates, discussion of this aspect of the debate has all but disappeared in the public sphere.
July 15, 2021
Thomas Jefferson, Third US President, in his first inaugural address on Mar. 4, 1801 said:
“All, too, will bear in mind this sacred principle, that though the will of the majority is in all cases to prevail, that will to be rightful must be reasonable; that the minority possess their equal rights, which equal law must protect, and to violate would be oppression. Let us, then, fellow-citizens, unite with one heart and one mind. Let us restore to social intercourse that harmony and affection without which liberty and even life itself are but dreary things. And let us reflect that, having banished from our land that religious intolerance under which mankind so long bled and suffered, we have yet gained little if we countenance a political intolerance as despotic, as wicked, and capable of as bitter and bloody persecutions.”Mar. 4, 1801 - Thomas Jefferson
David Barton, Founder and President of WallBuilders, in the Spring 2003 WallBuilder Report, wrote:
“[E]qual rights are not the same as equal power; the minority is never the equivalent of the majority and is never to exercise control over it. Nevertheless, despite a near 90 percent national approval for the use of the Pledge, the 9th Circuit has usurped ‘the consent of the governed.’ On what basis? Civil libertarians explain that ‘the consent of the governed’ is nothing more than what they call the ‘tyranny of the majority’; however, in opposing that supposed tyranny, Reinhardt has instead instituted a ‘tyranny of the minority.'”
[Editor’s Note: In a Mar. 28, 2007 phone conversation with ProCon.org, Nathan Lehman of the Wall Builder Research Department affirmed his organization’s support for the above stated position.]Spring 2003 - David Barton
James Dobson, PhD, Founder and President of Focus on the Family, released a June 26, 2002 press statement that read:
“This abominable ruling [Ninth Circuit ruling in Newdow vs. U.S.] by an imperious court is a slap in the face to all Americans and people of faith. At a moment when national unity should be of the utmost importance, two individuals chose to speak for an entire nation and, in the process, divide this country. There is no place for myopic edicts, especially during this time of national and international uncertainty – clearly neither the events of September 11, nor America’s war on terrorism, was weighing on the judge’s minds.”June 26, 2002 - James C. Dobson, PhD
Pat Robertson, JD, Founder and Chairman of the Christian Broadcasting Network, released a June 26, 2002 press statement that read:
“Thomas Jefferson, the author of the Declaration of Independence, warned that if judges were the sole arbiters of the Constitution, then this country would be placed, and I quote, ‘under the tyranny of an oligarchy.’ The outrageous action of the 9th Circuit in attempting to overrule the decades-old statute of the people’s congress placing the words ‘under God’ in our Pledge of Allegiance proves that the words of Jefferson were prophetic…
Now, a tiny minority is using the federal court system to attempt to dismantle our entire public affirmation of faith in God…
My legal experts tell me that the 9th Circuit is the most reversed federal circuit in the entire federal judicial system. I pray that in order to preserve our freedom as Americans and build a bulwark of spiritual protection against those who wish to destroy us, that the Supreme Court will acknowledge the heartfelt desire of the vast majority of the American people and overturn this senseless act of judicial tyranny of the 9th Circuit.”June 26, 2002 - Pat Robertson, JD
Patrick S. O’Donnell, in his Mar. 3, 2004 article “Under God or Under the Constitution,” published in the New Humanist, wrote:
“Polls find an overwhelming majority of Americans are content with the reference to God in the Pledge of Allegiance. But so what? The Federalist Papers are decisive evidence for the view that the Constitution was explicitly designed to protect us against irrational, passionate, and/or mistaken majorities.”Mar. 3, 2004 - Patrick S. O'Donnell, MA
Tobias B. Wolff, JD, Professor of Constitutional Law and Civil Procedure at U.C. Davis, wrote in a July 2, 2002 Findlaw.com article that:
“Perhaps most upsetting has been the majoritarian triumphalism that has characterized the public’s response to this case. The vast majority of Americans, we are told, ‘support the pledge.’ Perhaps a vast majority of Americans would even support keeping the words ‘under God’ in the pledge, if the media reported this case accurately. But being part of a majority does not give one a moral license to disregard – indeed, steamroller – dissenting viewpoints.
Many parts of our Constitution, including the Religion Clauses, exist in part to protect minority beliefs. When a court issues an opinion that challenges a majority view, why can’t it be an occasion for self-reflection, rather than outrage?
Belonging to a majority is a privilege. As the saying goes, there is safety in numbers. With that safety should come a measure of humility. Rather than triumphantly proclaiming that the Ninth Circuit’s opinion is out of step with the beliefs of most Americans, the public should use the safety of their numbers to take a serious look at the claim that this parent has made on behalf of his daughter.
The American people are at their best when they tackle difficult issues and reaffirm their values by challenging their own assumptions. They are at their worst when they refuse to question their beliefs and rely on numbers to silence, rather than foster, debate.”July 2, 2002 - Tobias B. Wolff, JD
Michael Newdow, JD, MD, in a Nov. 25, 2003 interview printed in American Jurist said:
“We have a democratic process, and the majority should do whatever it wants. But when we’re talking about fundamental constitutional rights, we’re in a different ballgame. In those situations, it doesn’t matter what the majority wants. If the majority wants to enslave blacks, too bad. You can’t do it. If the majority wants to have the government implicating a religious belief, too bad. You can’t do it. [Our Constitution] doesn’t allow you to.”
[Editor’s Note: In a Mar. 28, 2007 phone conversation with ProCon.org, Michael A. Newdow affirmed his support for the above stated position.]Nov. 25, 2003 - Michael Newdow, JD, MD