The Pledge of Allegiance Controversy – An Open Letter to 99.9 Gator Country in Jacksonville, FL

Early this morning I was driving home, listening to a local morning show here in Jacksonville.  It’s called “Your Hometown Morning Show” and features 99.9 Gator Country radio personalities Steve Sutton, Eden Kendall and Amadeus.  Though, I should note, that Eden is on vacation this week and was not a party to this conversation.

During one of their segments Steve and Amadeus were discussing a meeting of parents, teachers and administrators from a local school here in Jacksonville.  As it was reported, the group was invited and encouraged to recite the Pledge of Allegiance.  However, the version of the pledge written on the board at the front of the room had been revised and the words “under God” had been omitted.  Let the games begin…

First, for those who aren’t familiar with Jacksonville, you should know that there are churches EVERYWHERE.  And I do mean EVERYWHERE.  See:

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No kidding. This is good ol’ boy country…complete with gun rack totin’, mud-covered big ol’ monster trucks proudly flyin’ the confederate flag as they trek on down the road a hootin’ & a hollerin’ when they hear Toby Keith sing, “We’ll put a boot in yer ass…it’s the American way…”.  Not surprisingly, most of the people who called to chime in on the subject were of the, “Well, if ya don’t like it just get the heck outta our U.S. of A. types”.

While the judgmental finger wagging of many who are under the impression that their beliefs are the only legitimate beliefs is nothing new, for some reason hearing it come from local radio personalities who professed their offense while simultaneously disrespecting and dismissing the rights of every individual who doesn’t share their beliefs really stuck in my craw.

So, I had to shoot off an e-mail.  I decided to go ahead and post it here.  I’m sure a bunch of people are going to wag their fingers at me and tell me I’m doomed to spend an eternity in hell.  That’s cool.  If all these so-called believers are going to heaven, I’d prefer to spend eternity anywhere else.  And my handbasket is already decorated.  Without further ado, here ya go:

Dear Steve & Amadeus,

I’ve always enjoyed your show. I don’t listen to a lot of radio in the morning, but when I do it’s typically your show. Starting the morning off with a raucous laugh is always a good idea. This morning, though, I must admit that I was forced to give some careful consideration to a serious subject and I felt compelled to share my thoughts with you.

No one should take it upon themselves to alter the Pledge of Allegiance – even Congress – which, for those who are interested in facts, is how the words “under God” made their way into the pledge 62 years after it was penned. Written in 1892 by Francis Bellamy (a SOCIALIST), it is what it is and revising it to fit one’s own personal beliefs should not be condoned or encouraged. Should a person choose to publicly profess their allegiance to the United States by reciting the pledge, they should do so with the utmost respect for its author and recite it verbatim, just as he wrote it. I believe they should also understand the history of the pledge, as well as that of its author, but that’s another matter entirely.

However, reciting the Pledge of Allegiance is not a prerequisite to asserting one’s patriotism, nor is it indicative of one’s true allegiance to the United States of America. To require or impose a societal expectation that we must recite the Pledge of Allegiance dutifully with no regard for our own personal beliefs is contrary to the fundamental principles behind the very existence of America. Our founding fathers didn’t wish to build a Christian nation. America’s core values are not based solely on freedom of religion, but freedom from religion. To teach our children to shame, judge or ridicule others simply because they don’t share a common belief in a deity-based religion is indubitably disrespectful to the memory of the heroes of the American Revolutionary War.

While you may believe in God and believe it is your duty to shame those who do not share your beliefs, America exists because of those individuals whose commitment to preserving our individual, inalienable rights as human beings took precedence over imposing their personal beliefs on others. Because of that commitment – and their willingness to lay down their lives to build a nation based on an individual’s fundamental rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness – you are free to believe in God, Allah, Yahweh, Jehovah, Awonawilona or any other deity. You’re also free to choose to believe in no deity at all and live a life free of organized religion entirely.

To those who believe they have the right to decree that their beliefs are the only acceptable beliefs or that they have cornered the market on righteousness, I’d suggest brushing up on their history a bit before using their flawed interpretation of our nation’s founding documents to support their position as the self-appointed police of morality. They have begun to blur the lines between what they’ve been taught to believe from a religious standpoint and the values our forefathers relied upon as they laid this nation’s foundation.

The world we live in is a violent one, very much held hostage by those who believe in the right to impose their will on others based on a perception that “God is on our side…”. Wars are fought over religion. Nations exterminate one another’s citizens in the name of their God(s). If we were to examine history closely and objectively, we would find more often than not that godlessness does not lead to violence, indecency, inhumanity and destruction. Man’s misguided and self-serving interpretation of what we believe God’s will to be does.

This cannot be the future our forefathers envisioned. This cannot be the world anyone’s God could be proud to have created. In an attempt to defend what they personally believe to be right, morally acceptable and subjectively decent, people have abandoned any sense of fundamental compassion, understanding, acceptance and empathy for those whose beliefs do not mirror their own. I have the right to believe as I choose. As do you. Don’t dance on the graves of those who laid down their lives to provide each of us with those sacrosanct human rights by trying to force others to bend to your will or fit into your ideological mold. There is no greater act of patriotism than defending the rights of those with whom we may disagree.

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  1. Just wanted to let you know that I enjoy reading your posts. Don’t have much to add, cheers!

  2. The words “under God” were *not* in the Pledge originally. They were added in 1954.

    • Yes, in June of 1954 Eisenhower signed a resolution which altered the Pledge as we know it today to include “under God”. He did so to send a message to “the godless” in this nation that this is a Christian nation – despite the effort and intent of our founders to keep church and state separate. Imagine his delight knowing that children would be forced to recite the phrase “under God” every morning for generations to come. This is yet another tidbit of history that religious zealots and ultra right wing conservatives prefer to pretend never happened.

  3. I like that the church-filled map has a “report a problem” link on it. I reported: “There are WAY to many churches for the good health and sanity of the people in this area.”

    Now seriously, that’s a great email, really well argued and beautifully written; your points and arguments are clear and reasonable. Unfortunately, clarity of thought is a rare commodity, often supplanted by irrational rantings uttered in (sometimes) willful ignorance of our wonderful Constitution, history and the true nature and meaning of “liberty”. There are many who believe that freedom of religion explicitly excludes freedom FROM religion; these people must not be allowed to take away this freedom.

    Thank you for speaking up and doing it so well.

    • Thank you for your thoughtful comment and I glad you enjoyed the post. I couldn’t agree with you more regarding the tendency of irrational rants and false interpretations of history often replacing logic, rational thought and factual information.

      Thanks again for stopping by and taking the time to comment. By the way, I found the “problem” you reported to Google HILARIOUS! Well played. :)

  4. It’s nice to hear a progressive voice in Jacksonville. Nice letter.

    • Hi, Dan. Thanks for stopping by. I’m glad you enjoyed my letter. Progressives may be in the minority here in Jacksonville – and in Florida as a whole – but there are a few of us hanging in there…waiting for the day the rest of the world catches up and realizes that progress & social evolution are humanity’s only real hope for survival. :)