Why Abstain from the Pledge of Allegiance?

"And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men."
Bible, Matthew 6:5

Today, there are who-knows-how-many, committed patriots in America who are excluded for reasons of conscience from reciting the Pledge of Allegiance with their fellow citizens.

There are many reasons why people choose to abstain from the Pledge, including:

(1) Religious conviction.

  • Atheists, agnostics, freethinkers, skeptics, humanists and brights. Those whose worldview naturalistic, free of supernatural and mystical elements.
  • Pantheists or polytheists. Those who believe in many gods or in many religions.
  • Prohibited by belief. The teachings of many religions prohibit their members for participation for reasons that to do so would be:
    - Idolotry: praying or giving oaths to graven images, or to governments
    - Sacrilege: so casually speaking of God is to take his name in vain.
    - Humility: many religions ask their followers to shun vainly announcing their belief in public - "as the hypocrites are".

(2) Civil liberties and civic engagement.

  • Those who would defend the Constitution from what they feel is violation of the establishement clause of the First Amendment. The concepts "God" and that the nation is "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance are both ideas specific to religions. The objection is that when these concepts are promoted in the schools by regular recitation, the government is unconstitutionally indoctrinating children in a sectarian religious belief.
  • Libertarians who feel that in a free country no citizen should swear allegiance to a government that governs only by the consent of the governed.
  • Those who object to the socialist origins and intentions behind the Pledge.
  • Civic leaders and educators and who understand that. as a form of blind patriotism, the Pledge of Allegiance is positively associated with political disengagement and complaceny whereas constructive patriotism is positively associated with multiple indicators of civic involvemen" (Journal of Political Psychology, Schatz, Staub and Lavine, 3/99).

(3) Solidarity with the minority.

  • Those, who regardless of their own belief, abstain in solidarity with their neighbors. We must remember that - from emancipation to women's sufferage to bus segregation to handicapped access - minority rights have only ever been advanced when championed and supported by the majority, usually over and against their own interests.

Remaining true to one's convictions.
Dissent through non-participation.
Solidarity with one's fellow citizens.

Refusing to participate in the Pledge of Allegiance is a patriotism of action that can far surpass hackneyed lip-service to the flag.