I love getting these “action alerts” from religious right legal groups. At least once a week I get a breathless, hyperbolic email designed to push the emotional buttons of their followers and get them worked up into an unsightly froth. The Thomas More Law Center’s latest news alert takes aim at an obscure California college’s student government, which decided recently to stop opening their meetings with the pledge of allegiance. The news alert is titled Thomas More Law Center Condemns California College’s Ban on Pledge; Calls for Action By the Supreme Court, and it is practically bursting at the seems with logical fallacies.
The Student government of Orange Coast College in California, voted 3-1 this week to eliminate recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance from its weekly meetings. According to news accounts, student Board member Jason Ball, a self proclaimed atheist, called the flag salute” irrelevant to the business of the student government, and referred to a 2002 Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling on a possible “church -state conflict.” Ball, wearing black boots, a beret and a hammer-and-sickle pin, was quoted as saying, “Nationalism is something that divides people.”
The last part is a textbook attempt to poison the well; he’s a dirty rotten commie, you see, or at least he likes to dress like one, and therefore there is no need to actually think about anything he says. And once they start that, you know the weepy-eyed emotional appeals to our troops can’t be far behind:
Richard Thompson, President and Chief Counsel of the Thomas More Law Center, a national public interest law firm based in Ann Arbor, Michigan; commented, “It is outrageous that some students see no reason to pledge any loyalty to this nation while American soldiers are sacrificing their lives for the freedoms these students enjoy. The God-given freedom recognized in the Pledge is what protects Mr. Ball’s right to express his opinion there is no God. Further, it is shameful and disrespectful for Orange Coast College to act in such a manner during the same week as the 231st birthday of the Marine Corps and our national Veteran’s Day holiday.”
One wonders whether Thompson believes that the pre-1954 pledge, which did not mention God at all, likewise protected Ball’s right to express his opinion; evidently not. Note also that nowhere in the article does it say anything about Ball’s belief or non-belief in God. This is the standard false dichotomy offered by demagogues like Thompson. All “godly” people are on his side in debates about separation, you see, and only dirty atheists (and commies, of course) are on the other side. Never mind that a great many Christian leaders, from the revolutionary period to today, are staunch supporters of separation; they simply aren’t Real Christianstm, you see.
Let’s also not fail to note the giant non-sequitur in that paragraph. The argument is this: soldiers are dying abroad, allegedly for our freedom, and therefore we must diminish that freedom by requiring official declarations of orthodoxy and loyalty oaths. They go on to make yet another non-sequitur:
Continued Thompson, “Simply because the Pledge contains the phrase ‘One Nation Under God,’ does not represent an establishment of religion. Hopefully, this time the Supreme Court will decide the Pledge case on the merits in accordance with Justice Thomas’ legal analysis so that ‘separation between church and state’ will no longer be a pretext for government anti-religious policies.”
But even if we grant that they are correct that the pledge is not itself unconstitutional, that doesn’t mean that requiring that people recite it is not unconstitutional. For crying out loud, this was settled by the Supreme Court over 60 years ago in Barnette. Does the TMLC think that case was wrongly decided? They don’t say, of course. Going into that kind of detail exposes agendas and gets in the way of their careful framing of the issue as good people against dirty rotten commie atheists.
Naturally, STACLU responded to the same situation by piling on yet more absurdity. Their ridiculous distortions begin with the very title of the post:
College Students Ban The Pledge Of Allegiance
Uh, no, they didn’t. They stopped requiring that it be said at the beginning of student government meetings at that college. That’s not a ban. Every single student is absolutely free to recite the pledge with every waking breath if they choose to. Then they moved on to the same well poisoning engaged in by the TMLC:
It will most likely come as no surprise that the student trustee that proposed the ban was an atheist and admitted socialist.
There are two things that make this amusing to me. The first, as stated above, is that it’s a very obvious logical fallacy – the fact that it was initiated by an atheist and socialist has absolutely nothing to do with whether it’s a good idea or not. If that atheist socialist student likes pizza, I doubt that the STACLU crowd would give up pizza. Secondly, and more importantly, it’s the historical ignorance that shows just how silly this claim is.
Who wrote the Pledge of Allegiance? A man named Francis Bellamy. Who was Bellamy? Well, he was a Baptist minister. And a socialist. And his original pledge, the one used in schools after 1892, did not include the phrase “under God” at all (that part was added in 1954). And Bellamy wrote that his purpose in writing the pledge was to teach children the importance of obedience to the state, a socialist ideal if ever there was one. The pledge written by a socialist to inculcate socialist values is now being promoted by conservatives who are outraged that a socialist would object to saying it. Yet another irony meter down the drain.
STACLU links to this article from Reuters that repeats the lie that the school “banned” the pledge of allegiance, and it includes some hilariously idiotic quotes from the uber-patriots who delight in such empty symbolism:
“America is the one thing I’m passionate about and I can’t let them take that away from me,” 18-year-old political science major Christine Zoldos told Reuters.
Well yes, Christine, because if other people don’t recite the pledge of allegiance by rote every time they meet, then “America” has been taken away from you. Seriously, are you that stupid? They also link to this delightfully idiotic post from someone named Dan Riehl on the same subject. Here’s my favorite part:
And you can thank a ruling from a San Francisco court for kicking this off. Now, who is it that comes from San Francisco? Oh. that’s right, the new House Frau, Nancy Pelosi.
Ah yes, he has cleverly connected the dots here, has he not? He might as well have said, “And you can thank a group of higher order primates for kicking this off. And who else is a higher level primate? Oh yes, Osama Bin Laden.” And remember folks, these people can vote.