Friday, June 18, 2010

Ceremonial Deism and the Constitution

Many are wondering what I mean by ceremonial deism. Ceremonial deism is a legal term that means "a ritual that mentions the divine, but the ritual is rendered non-religious through its long, customary usage."  The two most popular examples of ceremonial deism are the words "under G-d" in the Pledge of Allegiance and "In G-d We Trust" on our currency.

Historically speaking, the words "under G-d" were added to the Pledge of Allegiance in 1954 to "stick it to those g-dless Communists."  Adding "In G-d We Trust" to our currency, on the other hand, goes all the way back to 1864 when it was put on the two-cent.  It had been put on other coins in the early twentieth century, and was finally added to paper currency in 1956.  1956 was also the year where Congress had, for the first time in history, declared a national motto ("In G-d We Trust").  Prior to that, E Pluribus Unum (From Many, One) had been the unofficial motto of America.

In the case of Elk Grove Unified School District v. Newdow (2004), Justice Sandra Day O'Connor explains (p. 35) why the Pledge of Allegiance does not violate the Establishment Clause.  O'Connor has always been a proponent of the endorsement test.  Since the Pledge of Allegiance does not endorse one religion over the other, it does not violate the Establishment Clause.  The Pledge of Allegiance is meant to be a non-religious expression of patriotism. 

I would argue that it doesn't violate the Establishment Clause because G-d is a generic term that can apply to Christianity, Judaism, or Islam.  Whether it violates the Free Exercise clause, however, is another story.  Although it's technically voluntary to say the Pledge, children are too impressionable to see the difference and will most likely be peer pressured into saying.  Being a Jew, I would be uncomfortable with the fact that I would have to pledge allegiance to a flag.  Since a practicing Jew, as well as a practicing Muslim, should ultimately "pledge allegiance" to G-d, such a practice, no matter how seemingly voluntary, can be seen as an infringement of the Free Exercise Clause, as well as on the Free Speech Clause.    

The currency controversy is slightly different.  Most people don't look down at their money and think, "Oh, the government is establishing [or endorsing, for that matter] Christianity as this country's religion.  Let's take it off the money," although there are some atheists out there who decide to cross off the motto.  I'm not even going to go into how much it would cost to efface that from currency.  Even though it mentions the divine, is putting "In G-d We Trust" on our money a religious act?  The answer is in the negative.  Furthermore, as previously stated, which monotheistic version of G-d is in reference?  As such, it technically is not a violation of the Establishment Clause.  It also has nothing to do with the Free Exercise Clause because it doesn't inhibit one's religious practice in any way.  In addition, the practices are innocuous enough where it doesn't really sway First Amendment rights either way.  Unless ceremonial deism becomes used for more nefarious means, I don't see any reason to spend additional time on the matter.


  1. The pledge is a pretty controversial issue. By including "under G-d" ,it satisfies religious people who put G-d over nation, but at the same time it is absolutely irrelevant or even insulting (to militant atheists) to people who don't practice monotheistic religions. The cold war is over and I think people should have the option to include "under G-d" if they choose. It's too bad there are many Americans on the left and the right who believe in telling other people how to live.

  2. The Pledge of Allegiance was the origin of the Nazi salute (and the swastika -although an ancient symbol- was used to represent crossed S-shapes for "socialism" under the National Socialist German Workers Party).

    Francis Bellamy (cousin of author Edward Bellamy) was a socialist in the Nationalism movement and authored the Pledge of Allegiance (1892), the origin of the stiff-armed salute adopted much later by the National Socialist German Workers Party. See the work of the symbologist Dr. Rex Curry.

    See the image at

    Francis Bellamy clearly explained that his pledge began with a military salute that was then extended out toward the flag. In practice, the second gesture was performed palm-down with a stiff-arm when the military salute was merely pointed out at the flag by disinterested children forced to do Bellamy's programmed chanting daily in government schools. That is how the straight-arm salute developed from Francis Bellamy's Pledge of Allegiance and its use of the military salute (and how the USA's Pledge salute led to the Nazi salute).

    See the video at

    American national socialists (including Edward Bellamy), in cooperation with Madame Blavatsky and the Theosophical Society, popularized the use of the Swastika (an ancient symbol) as a modern symbol for socialism long before the symbol was adopted by the National Socialist German Workers Party (Nazis) and used on its flag.

    See also

    The Bellamys influenced the National Socialist German Workers Party and its dogma, rituals and symbols (e.g. robotic collective chanting to flags; and the modern use of the swastika as crossed S-letters for "Socialism" under German National Socialism). Similar alphabetical symbolism was used under the NSDAP for the "SS" division, the "SA," the "NSV," et cetera and similar symbolism is visible today as the VW logo (the letters "V" and "W" joined for "Volkswagen").

    The Bellamys wanted the government to take over all food, clothing, shelter, goods and services and create an "industrial army" to impose their "military socialism." See the video documentary at

    It is the same dogma that led to the socialist Wholecaust (of which the Holocaust was a part): ~60 million killed under the former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics; ~50 million under the Peoples' Republic of China; ~20 million under the National Socialist German Workers' Party.

    Today, the flag symbolizes authoritarianism in the USA. The historical facts above explain the enormous size and scope of government today, and the USA's police state, and why it is growing so rapidly. They are reasons for minarchy: massive reductions in government, taxation, spending and socialism.