"Under God" should be removed from the Pledge of allegiance.
"Under God" should be removed from the Pledge of allegiance.
Text of the pledge:
"I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."
Please comment if you are interested in debating this topic.
72hrs/6,000 Characters/Select Winner/4 rounds
Round 1: Acceptance
Round 2: Present case
Round 3: Rebuttals
Round 4: Overiew of debate/closing statement (No new arguements)
I accept the debate.
Good luck, Kasmic ;)
Thanks Romanii for accepting! Good luck to you may friend.
I will provide a thorough overview and background comprising of the historical background, purpose of the pledge, who says the pledge, and the concept of separation of church and state. After which I will present the case for removing the phrase from the pledge.
1: Historical Background
In its original form it read:
"I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."
In 1923, the words, "the Flag of the United States of America" were added. At this time it read:
"I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."
In 1954, in response to the Communist threat of the times, President Eisenhower encouraged Congress to add the words "under God," creating the 31-word pledge we say today. Bellamy's daughter objected to this alteration. Today it reads:
"I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."(1)
2: The Purpose of the Pledge
The purpose of the pledge is to promote unity as Americans. Hence, phrases like "one nation," and "indivisible." The phrase "Under God" in the pledge is not helping this purpose. Rather, it alienates and separates atheist Americans from theists Americans, causing a division. This is evident from the following links. (2)(3) The pledge of allegiance is a way to outwardly express your patriotism.
3: Who says the Pledge
As an adult I have not had many opportunities to recite the pledge. However, as a child, the public schools I attended said it every day.
4: Separation of Church and State
Thomas Jefferson, who is accredited with writing the Declaration of Independence and was the 3rd President of the United States, wrote the following to the Danbury Baptist association in the state of Connecticut.
"Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man & his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, & not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should "make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof," thus building a wall of separation between Church & State."(4)
James Madison "The civil government functions with complete success by the total separation of the church from the state."
Jefferson and Madison clearly believed that the constitution solidified a separation of church and state with the first amendment phrase "make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." An overwhelming majority of Americans agree with this interpretation.(5)
Now that we have the proper context on the topic here is my case.
The phrase "under God" does not promote patriotism and is thus out of place. It was not originally in the pledge thus there is no historical case to be made that would justify keeping the phrase. The justification of adding the phrase under God includes the "threat of communism." The cold war has been over for more than 20 years. The justification used for adding the phrase is no longer a current concern. It is a breach the separation of church and state that atheists parents who’s kids are sent to public schools are made to participate in a pledge that includes God.(6) With such a separation supposedly to exist, it is amazing that the phrase "under God" ever made its way into the pledge, let alone remain there.
The result of removing this phrase would allow the pledge to fill its purpose as a unifying demonstration of patriotism, and support the Constitutional value that church and state should be separate.
Thus, “Under God” should be removed from the pledge.
This round I'll be putting forth my constructive case.
In order to avoid repetitiveness, "separation of church and state" will henceforth be referred to as "SCS".
C1) SCS is not violated
The existence of SCS as a legal principle stems solely the 'establishment clause' of the Constitution's first amendment, and therefore we should look to that clause in order to determine the parameters of SCS; it reads -- "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." From this, we see that only two specific government actions are being prohibited. Firstly, it disallows the use of state power to specially promote any particular religion (e.g. creating an official state religion or publicly funding religious monuments, proselytization, festivities, etc). Secondly, it prevents the government from making laws which directly infringe upon people's freedom of religion (e.g. banning or forcefully imposing certain religious beliefs or practices upon people).
Obviously, I maintain that the inclusion of the phrase "Under God" in the pledge falls into neither of the prohibited categories. The phrase clearly does not favor any single religion; it is, at worst, a neutral reference to theism (which is not an "establishment of religion"). Furthermore, "Under God" cannot reasonably be construed as imposing theism on anyone because (1) saying the pledge is not mandatory, which removes the coercive element that is necessary for it to be considered an infringement of freedom, (2) there is no intent to even vaguely 'promote' theism evident in the inclusion of the phrase, and (3) the phrase can be interpreted as being purely symbolic -- of "God-given rights" and the deistic tradition of the Founding Fathers -- so saying "one nation under God" does not necessarily imply any sort of acknowledgement that God exists.
C2) Opportunity Cost
In practicality, any attempt at actually removing the phrase "Under God" from the pledge is going to take up a large amount of time and resources on the part of Congress due to its general predisposition towards inefficiency, coupled with the inevitable emotional back-lash (Christians - including politicians - tend to feel as if they are "under attack" when religious traditions are threatened). However, the issue of "Under God" being in the pledge has literally *no* serious impact on *anyone*. There is a nearly-infinite number of vastly more important issues which actually affect millions of people -- reforming the welfare system, dealing with illegal immigration, helping Americans cope with the exorbitant costs of healthcare, fixing the public education system, implementing gun control laws, improving law enforcement efficacy, beginning the long process of campaign finance reform... the list goes on. The point is that even if the phrase "Under God" technically is a violation of SCS, the process of removing it from the pledge incurs a gigantic opportunity cost because there will *always* be other enormously more important issues which Congress could and should be spending its time/resources on.
1. The pledge does not "respect an establishment of religion" or "prohibit the free exercise [of religion]"
2. The empirical impacts of the issue are negligible to the point that, in practicality, Congress cannot afford to waste its limited time and resources on addressing it. (In other words -- who cares?)
The resolution is negated.
Back to Pro.
Thanks Romanii, articulate as always.
This round, I will rebut Pro's case and defend my own.
For the sake of simplicity, I'm merging Pro's SCS contention with my own.
== AFF CASE ==
Pro's argument here seems to be that "Under God" was originally included in response to the rise of Communism, so the lack of current threat from Communism means that "Under God" should be removed. However, that argument presumes Originalism -- the principle that the intent of the author(s) determines the objective meaning/significance of a text. Pro has given us no reason to accept Originalism; I contend that textual meanings are subjective and can therefore change over time. The main context in which Originalism used to be applied was Constitutional interpretation, and even in that field, Originalism has largely been rejected for pragmatic reasons . There is no reason to apply the original significance of the phrase "Under God" to it as it is used today. Pro's argument fails.
Pro says that the phrase "Under God" goes against the purpose of the pledge (promoting national unity) by alienating atheistic Americans. Firstly, cross-apply my symbolism sub-point from C1, which demonstrates that there is no real alienation resulting from the phrase's inclusion. Secondly, even if it does "alienate" atheists, the very existence of an official national pledge already "alienates" a significant minority of citizens, including unpatriotic Americans, anarchists, and members of certain religious sects which believe it to be a sin to pledge allegiance to any entity lesser than God (e.g. Jehovah's Witnesses) . If the Supreme Court felt that an adequate solution to this "alienation" was to simply make saying the pledge non-compulsory , then why shouldn't that also be enough to account for atheistic "alienation"?
== NEG CASE ==
I gave three sub-points demonstrating that "Under God" does NOT "prohibit the free exercise [of religion]" by imposing theism on atheists. Pro attempts to refute all three.
1a. Pro observes that 43 states have laws requiring students to recite the Pledge of Allegiance. However, in the Supreme Court decision "West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette", it was decided that such laws are unconstitutional and cannot legally be enforced . So students *do* have the right to not say the pledge -- it is not mandatory. Individual states have merely neglected to change their official legislatures on the issue. The fact that states have yet to do so *72 years* after the said SC decision just feeds into my second contention by demonstrating what a negligible issue this is.
1b. Pro also brings up that peer pressure to say the pledge constitutes "religious coercion", but that is simply untrue. No matter how strong of a social stigma there is against certain uses of our rights, we are still fully capable of valuing our freedom over social repercussions and exercising those rights. Social pressures have no bearing on the actual existence of our rights. Moreover, Pro has not demonstrated that the pressure to say the pledge is particularly strong.
2-3. Both of these rebuttals assume Originalism, which I have already given reasons to reject. The fact that "Under God" was originally included with the purpose of imposing theism does not falsify either of my points because I am referring to the way the phrase is used in *modern* times. As it is now, the phrase "Under God" can very plausibly be interpreted as purely symbolic, and that view is corroborated by the ceremonial presence of such symbolic references elsewhere in the public sphere, such as in currency ("In God we trust") and in common court rituals ("God save this honorable court").
C2) Opp Cost
Pro's response makes no sense. He just states the resolution says "should" and somehow expects us to accept that as sufficient reason to dismiss the practical consequences of affirming the resolution. Any time we consider whether or not we "should" do something, the results of actually *doing* it would obviously factor into our decision. What I'm arguing here is that the act of removing "Under God" from the pledge would have negative results in the form of a massive opportunity cost. Violating an abstract principle of governance like SCS produces no empirical harms of its own -- Pro has yet to show how a single person would be seriously affected by keeping "Under God" in the pledge; meanwhile, the infinite number of other issues Congress could instead be spending its limited time & resources on affect the physical well-being of millions of people. So regardless of whether or not "Under God" violates SCS, affirming the resolution harms millions of people by causing Congress to focus its resources on changing the Pledge instead of fixing more substantial problems.
The resolution is negated.
Back to you, Kasmic!
Thanks Romanii, this has been an entertaining debate.
Thanks to Kasmic for an interesting debate.
I'll organize this round by reviewing each of the major issues covered in the debate and showing why I won each of them.
== Originalism vs. Symbolism ==
Pro's only defense of Originalism is the blatantly false assertion that I have "provided no alternative reasonable interpretation" of "Under God". I clearly did posit that "Under God" can be interpreted as being symbolic of the deistic tradition of the Founding Fathers and the "God-given rights" of the people, and I supported the validity of this interpretation by noting the presence of other such ceremonial references in currency ("In God we trust") and court rituals ("God save this honorable court"). The only time Pro responded to any of this is when he said my interpretation disregards the historical context of "Under God", but like I said, the historical context is *irrelevant* if Originalism doesn't hold true.
Moreover, I actually gave a reason to *reject* Originalism by showing how it has been more or less discredited in the professional legal community, which, again, Pro didn't respond to. By dropping my objection and failing to provide any real positive reason to support it, Pro has essentially conceded that Originalism is false. On the other hand, my symbolic interpretation remains unscathed and validated, and it's the only interpretation left standing in the debate. The impact of this is that "Under God" has no theistic implications whatsoever; thus, there is no way for "Under God" to be considered a violation of SCS, nor can it justifiably be seen as alienating atheists. That leaves us with absolutely no reason to remove "Under God" from the pledge, and therefore the resolution is negated. Feel free to stop reading here and vote Con.
== Separation of Church & State ==
This comes down entirely to a single issue -- whether or not anyone is 'coerced' into saying the pledge. Without coercion, having "Under God" in the pledge cannot be construed as an infringement of religious freedom. Pro merely re-iterates that many states still have laws in place requiring the recitation of the pledge. However, as I said last round, while they may technically be around, they cannot be enforced. The reason why those states have yet to update their laws is that no legal issues have come up yet regarding the punishment of students who don't wish to say the pledge (which, again, shows how much of a non-issue this is). In response to my rebuttal that social pressure to recite the pledge is not very strong, Pro, once again, just says something about existing (unenforceable) laws, which has nothing to do with social pressures... Since Pro has not demonstrated otherwise, we can conclude that the right to opt out of saying the pledge does exist and can be freely exercised. Thus, regardless of whether "Under God" promotes theism or is symbolic, including it in the pledge does not violate SCS.
== Purpose of the Pledge ==
Pro argued that "Under God" contradicts the purpose of the Pledge by alienating atheists, but he misunderstands my rebuttal. My point was that the pledge, by virtue of its very existence, already alienates a significant minority of the population (Jehovah's Witnesses, etc), so we have two choices -- we either acknowledge that the pledge already fails at its purpose (which would nullify the impact of this argument), or we accept the Supreme Court's solution to the alleged problem of alienation (which would necessarily solve for atheistic alienation too). "Under God" does not contradict the purpose of the pledge any more than "I pledge allegiance" does.
== Opportunity Cost ==
Pro's only response is that this argument is a "fallacy of relative privation". However, I am *not* dismissing the "Under God" issue merely because more important issues exist; I was very specific in stating exactly why "Under God" should not be removed from the pledge -- because Congress would have to use a lot of time and resources in doing so, which could be better spent addressing political issues with actual empirical harms (which the "Under God" issue is bereft of). My reasoning here is *not* the combination of emotional appeal and non-sequitur which defines the fallacy of RP; it's a purely pragmatic utilitarian argument which demonstrates that implementing Pro's proposed motion incurs a massive opportunity cost.
If Pro wanted to discuss this issue in an isolated bubble without regard for the practical consequences of implementing the resolution, he should have made the resolution something along the lines of "Including 'Under God' in the pledge of allegiance violates SCS". Pro has not drawn any blood on this argument at all, which is a problem for him because it independently negates the resolution, showing that affirming the resolution is an empirically bad idea even if all of Pro's purely abstract/theoretical arguments succeed. I would say "feel free to stop reading here and vote Con," but the end of the debate has already been reached.....
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