Simple solution will clear pledge conflict

Simple solution will clear pledge conflict By Editorial Ike is probably twirling in his grave right now.

It was President Eisenhower who, in 1954, while breathing an atmosphere rarefied by a growing Cold War, made a move designed, no doubt, to fire a small salvo toward Communist superpowers on the other side of the globe.

He signed legislation inserting "under God" after the words "one nation" in the Pledge of Allegiance.

Nearly three decades have passed since then, but that simple act today is the source of major controversy in the land.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco ruled 2-1 in June 2002 that reciting the pledge in public schools is unconstitutional. The court reaffirmed its decision in February, amending the ruling to say that "teacher-led" recitation of the pledge is unconstitutional.

The rulings came after Michael Newdow, an atheist and father of an elementary school girl, filed the case against the United States, Congress, California and two school districts.

Newdow's daughter lives with her mother, who has sole custody of the young girl. The daughter attends public school in Elk Grove, CA, near Sacramento.

Newdow's complaint alleged that, "his daughter is injured when she is compelled to 'watch and listen as her state-employed teacher in her state-run school leads her classmates in a ritual proclaiming that there is a God and that ours is one nation under God.'"

This conflict is going all the way to the United States Supreme Court.

The high court has announced that it will decide in 2004 whether it is constitutional for public-school teachers to lead students in the Pledge of Allegiance because of the words "under God."

There's a simple solution to this that Newdow apparently won't accept.

We don't have to change the wording of the pledge.

We simply need to recognize that, yes, there are people in this country with beliefs and value systems different than ours.

We should all make attempts to welcome such diversity in our schools, our workplaces, our social gatherings, our places of worship.

At the same time, we must recognize that to truly reach goals of diversity, people should not be forced to change.

Adults of today, who are part of the baby boomer generation of the 1950s, grew up reciting the Pledge of Allegiance every morning at school � with the words "under God." It's a tradition that's continued in many of our nation's classrooms today.

We recognize that the United States, and even South Dakota are far different today than they were 50 years ago.

That doesn't mean all Americans should be forced to change, however, to satisfy the demands of what appears to be clearly a minority.

This issue could have been resolved without all the legal histrionics.

Ms. Newdow should simply be allowed to opt-out of reciting the pledge if she finds it objectionable.

Or, she can simply close her mouth for that brief second when everyone says "under God."

The American Civil Liberties Union maintains that opting-out won't work. Schools likely will need to have a parent's okay before they can allow a pupil to not say the pledge.

The ACLU believes that the parental notification requirement could be viewed as a disciplinary measure that would discourage students from exercising their right not to participate.

We find that argument to be, frankly, very weak.

Will the world suddenly tumble off its axis if the Supreme Court strikes the phrase "under God" from the pledge?

Of course not.

We believe the high court has enough sense to realize, however, that it can't stop the majority of the populace from uttering the pledge in its present form.

Just flash back to that scene at the U.S. Capitol, when members of Congress demonstrated their support by reciting the pledge, including those two controversial words, after the June 2002 ruling in California that banned them.

What it really all boils down to is patriotism.

A government wisely acting within its bounds will earn loyalty and respect from its citizens. A government dare not demand the same.

That's why we believe an opt-out provision to reciting the pledge is the proper solution to this controversy.

There is much more to being a patriot and a citizen than reciting the pledge or raising a flag.

Patriots serve. Patriots vote. Patriots attend meetings in their community.

Patriots pay attention to the actions of government and speak out when needed.

Patriots teach their children about our history, our democracy and about citizenship.

Being an active, engaged citizen means being a patriotic American every day.

No law or court ruling will make a citizen a patriot.

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