Under God

In Democracy and the Constitution: Landmarks of Contemporary Political Thought (Washington, DC: AEI Press, 2006).


On March 24, 2004, the Supreme Court heard arguments in still another of what civil libertarians insist on calling establishment-of-religion cases, Elk Grove Unified School District v. Newdow. While the previous cases dealt with school prayers, for example, or public religious instruction, or the public display of a creche or the Ten Commandments, this one had to do with the words “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance.

Were it not for the law of these previous cases, this one could have been easily disposed of. The Court could have decided for the school district on the merits, confident that only the most zealous and unrelenting of libertarians would be likely to object. No one is required to make the pledge or utter the word God, and it is hard to believe that, as the plaintiff alleged, his daughter was somehow injured when hearing her classmates utter it. After all, the name of God is invoked on various public occasions by, or in the presence of, presidents, governors, members of Congress, even Supreme Court justices, and no one seems to be any the worse for it. So why may it not be uttered by schoolchildren when pledging allegiance?

American Enterprise Institute