If mainstream media reports are to be believed, the Pledge of Allegiance, which most of us have no occasion to recite once we graduate from high school, has fallen victim to a steady stream of attacks. A nation-wide backlash erupted last week when it was reported that Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa voted to ban the pledge. This happened just a few years after the U.S. Ninth Circuit Courts of Appeals ruled in 2002 that the Pledge of Allegiance as led in public schoolrooms violated the First Amendment, creating a clear pattern of nearly constant attack which the pledge has only barely managed to withstand.
At least, that’s what the media would have us believe. Reuters reported the story as one of its top headlines on Nov. 9 and described the incident in its second paragraph as ‘the latest clash over patriotism and religion in American schools.’ FOX News reported the story as one of its top national stories the next day. CNN reported the story with this lead: ‘Student leaders at a community college voted to drop the Pledge of Allegiance after a tense meeting in which one flag-waving pledge supporter berated them as anti-American radicals’; one wonders why that single flag-waver was important enough to warrant a mention in the lead of the story. In a town whose most famous accomplishment thus far has been being the inspiration for the hit show ‘The O.C.’, Orange Coast College has suddenly found itself in the national spotlight, and been accused on-campus of ‘coddling a student government of hypocrites, left-wing nuts, freedom-haters and, very likely, ‘commies.”
Whether or not ‘under God’ in the pledge in fact constitutes a violation of the Establishment Clause is an issue best left to legal scholars and the Supreme Court, who unfortunately (but predictably) neglected to answer the question in 2004. But the eagerness and slanted style with which the mainstream media has jumped on this story, and ranked it as significant as Ken Mehlman stepping down as chairman of the Republican National Committee and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld resigning, is revealing. If the board had instead voted to require recitation of the pledge among all attendees, including the ‘under God’ part, would it have attracted nearly the same amount of attention?
What has been interpreted by Internet bloggers as proof of godless anti-Americanism running rampant on college campuses (even in arguably the most conservative county in the country), however, is neither remarkable nor likely to affect anyone outside the college, as the decision is solely restricted to how the student board of OCC conducts its meetings. The decision does not affect other clubs or campus meetings, nor would students who do not attend board meetings have any reason to care. If public participation at OCC’s meetings in any way resembles public participation at the Associated Students of UC Irvine’s weekly meetings, the number of people with valid grounds to complain about having a precious opportunity to recite the pledge stripped away from them would be very low indeed.
Additionally, there is nothing stopping students from reciting the pledge of their own volition (as was demonstrated by protestors at the next meeting, who recited the pledge anyway), but apparently some feel that the pledge is only meaningful when they are being told to say it by an authority figure. Nevertheless, no one is being punished for reciting the pledge on their own, the decision in no way affects the American people at large and the majority of the student populace will see no change in their lifestyles.
OCC Student Vice President Christine Zoldos, the lone dissenter on the measure, said, ‘America is the one thing I’m passionate about and I can’t let them take that away from me,’ adding, ‘The fact that they have enough power to ban one of the most valued traditions in America is just horrible.’ Putting aside Zoldos’s unorthodox definitions of ‘take away’ and ‘ban,’ the idea that reciting the pledge before student board meetings is necessary to the fabric of America should not be taken seriously, and the supposed newsworthiness of this story stems from a bias in the media to look down on all things secular