April 29, 2004
Representative Pete Sessions
United States House Of Representatives
via email: PeteS@mail.house.gov
Dear Representative Sessions:
I recently read an article on cnn.com about
Representative Jim McDermott's omission of the phrase
"Under God" from his recent reading of the
Pledge of Allegiance in Congress, and I was frightened by
your comments regarding the incident.
You are quoted as follows:
Pete Sessions, R-Texas, accused McDermott of '...disparaging
the majority of Americans who share the values
expressed in the pledge.' "
all, I am an American, and I am also an atheist. There
are millions of atheists just like me in America.
So, I am offended that your comment segregates my choice
of religion into a minority, and that such minorities are
thus not worthy of your representation in your defense of
the majority. Specifically, you are defending the
majority against being disparaged, but you therefore make
anyone who is outside of the majority into second class
citizens. That is religious discrimination.
Secondly, by lumping the "Under God" line in
with the other myriad "values expressed in the
pledge," you are suggesting that one cannot hold the
non-religious values of the pledge without holding the
"Under God" one. Do you actually believe that
someone who doesn't say "Under God" is
therefore negating his/her ability to pledge allegiance
to any of the other facets of the pledge? Is atheism
incompatible with the political, social, and civic values
of our nation? Of course that is not so.
While I might not worship your God, or any other deity (whether
it be Allah or Jesus or Buddha or Satan or Zeus) for that
matter, that does not preclude me from pledging
allegiance to our country's flag, or to the republic for
which it stands, or to an indivisible one nation. Nor is
an atheist incapable of espousing and upholding the
values of liberty and justice for all.
The point that many atheists in our minority are trying
to make about the "Under God" issue is very
fundamental: we can be Americans without being religious.
We are Americans whether we worship a particular lord or
don't. And no American should be made to feel that a
failure to recognize "God" or religion
disqualifies that American from the equal rights of
Since the United States was founded on the principle of
religious freedom, it is therefore chilling to hear a
representative in the congress drawing a line between
those who believe in God and those who don't.
Considering that the "Under God" part of the
pledge was added only as a political reaction to the
perceived threat of communism in the 1950's, over 50
years ago, it is outrageous to continue forcing a
religious text on to a free America that is now made up
of so many different belief systems, such as atheism,
which is practiced by millions of Americans like me. If
one cannot practice atheism without fear of persecution
in America, the very country where religious freedom was
born, then what message do we send to the victims of
fanatical religious persecutions in other countries?
When an atheist like me hears a representative of the U.S.
Government dismissing my religious choice because it is
not in the majority, I am reminded of Germany and the
state persecution of people just because they were Jewish.
Shall we further amend the pledge to say "One Nation
Under God, unless that is, you don't believe in God, and
therefore you are not part of our one nation"? What
about those Americans who believe in Allah? Or those who
align themselves with Taoism? How can we have freedom of
religion if the U.S. Govermnment demands that everyone
worship "God" or be ostracized and oppressed?
I hope that you will consider expanding your
representative scope to include equally those Americans
who may be atheist, and those who may not consider
themselves or their nation "under God," and
those who nonetheless have every right to the liberty of
freedom of religion.
When I recite the pledge, I pledge allegiance to the
whole nation. Including the atheists.
You should, too.