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16 June, 2004

Swearing in schools

It seems US children start their school day with a pledge of allegiance to 'one nation, under god'.  I'd have major problems with the concept of the pledge at all (the state should serve citizens, not vice versa), but in particular applaud the attempt by a pupil's father to remove the religious reference.  I strongly feel religion has no place in schools, other than as an academic discipline, to be treated impartially.

The legal argument was that the phrase contradicts the first amendment of the US constitution, which guarantees that government will not 'establish' religion, i.e. separation of church and state is fundamental to the constitution, but is being ignored.

Unfortunately, the attempt to sue institutions such as Congress and the President failed on Monday, when the supreme court dismissed the challenge. This wasn't on the merits of the issue itself, but for the technical reason that the father hasn't established the legal right to speak for the child. Nicely dodged, your honours.

At least this leaves the opportunity for someone else to try....

Incidentally, the Guardian's reporting of the story prominently stresses the father is an atheist, which might partly explain why he took offence at the wording of the pledge, but it's not strictly relevant, and this shouldn't be dismissed as an attack on religion itself, just its suitability in a compulsory part of the school day.

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