A lawyer, a judge, and the Pledge of Allegiance

I’ve got a lot of these to slog through. I’ve already deleted two drafts that upon further review just weren’t interesting enough to comment on and post.

There’s very little to quote in this ABA Journal article, which is itself a followup to this earlier article. So I’ll just summarize: A judge in Mississippi (Chancellor Talmadge Littlejohn) jails a lawyer for not reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. The lawyer (Danny Lampley) stood, but did not actually recite the words. He was then asked to individually recite the pledge, and he refused. Judge Littlejohn finds him in contempt and jails him for most of the business day (five hours). The aftermath: Judge Littlejohn is reprimanded and fined $100 for abusing his contempt powers.

And rightfully so. I believe Danny was within his rights to not recite the pledge. Asking Danny to individually recite the pledge after the others have finished was clearly intended to humiliate him. Judge Littlejohn should be ashamed of himself; he damn near got away with a flagrant abuse of his contempt powers. Here’s hoping the next judge that does something this stupid is given a more appropriate sanction, such as a fine in the $1,000 to $2,000 range.

Actually the more I think about it, this is a strong argument to actually outlaw the recitation of the pledge in courtrooms. I’ve never been in a courtroom where I was required to recite the pledge; if I am, at the very least, I’m leaving out “under God”. It is this I would like to elaborate on before I close out this post.

My personal reason for omitting “under God” is that it is at odds with the separation of church and state mentioned both in Article VI and the First Amendment to the US Constitution. I feel it is an inappropriate reference to religion that makes too many people uncomfortable.

And there is a solid line of reasoning behind this. According to this story by Dr. John W. Baer on oldtimeislands.org, the gratuitous addition of a religious reference would have been opposed by Francis Bellamy, the Baptist minister who originally wrote the pledge in 1892:

In 1954, Congress after a campaign by the Knights of Columbus, added the words, ‘under God,’ to the Pledge. The Pledge was now both a patriotic oath and a public prayer.

Bellamy’s granddaughter said he also would have resented this second change. He had been pressured into leaving his church in 1891 because of his socialist sermons. In his retirement in Florida, he stopped attending church because he disliked the racial bigotry he found there.

Think about this for a minute: the pledge as originally written by a Baptist minister did not contain the words “under God”. Does it not fly in the face of logic to stuff those words in there when a minister has implied they don’t belong by their omission?