Conservatives and atheists are again fighting over whether children in government-run schools should be required or encouraged to say the modern version of the Pledge of Allegiance, which includes the phrase “under God.” (As originally written, the Pledge did not contain that phrase.)
As Bobby Eberle reports for GOPUSA, an atheist family is suing the Matawan-Aberdeen Regional School District in New Jersey because the school by default requires students to say the Pledge. (Students may refrain from saying the pledge if they have “conscientious scruples against such pledge or salute,” according to New Jersey statutes.)
Eberle is incensed by the lawsuit; he writes, “It’s time we [conservatives] all stood up for what we believe in and not let some fringe group push us around.”
Contrary to Eberle’s remarks, the problem is not that atheists are pushing around Christians—or vice versa. The problem is that government is pushing around everyone.
In New Jersey and around the country, government forces atheists as well as religionists to finance government-run schools—a violation of people’s rights to decide how to use their wealth.
When government forces atheists to finance schools that require students to pledge allegiance to a nation “under God,” that not only violates the rights of atheists to spend their wealth as they see fit; it also violates their rights to abstain from supporting beliefs with which they disagree.
Likewise, when government forces religionists to finance schools that purge religion from the curriculum, that act violates their rights.
Government-run schools are inherently rights-violating. So long as they exist, they will create unending conflicts such as the one over the Pledge. The fundamental problem is not that the “wrong” faction controls government-run schools; the problem is that government-run schools exist.
The solution consistent with individual rights is neither to force students to pledge allegiance to a nation “under God” nor to forbid them to do so. Rather, the solution is to get government out of education altogether and leave private schools to establish their own policies on such matters. Then parents could send their students to the schools of their choice, and people could finance the schools of their choice (if they wished to do so). The solution, in short, is liberty.