@One Nation under God:
The True Color of the Religious State America
4th July, 2002
Yoshinobu Miyake

The Independence Day of the United States

Needless to say, the fourth of July is the Independence Day of the United States of America. In 1620, a group of the Puritan called Pilgrim Fathers escaped from the religious persecution in England and crossed over the Atlantic Ocean on the Mayflower to Plymouth, a new land in the northeast part of so called "North America." Since then America (of course, at that times it was called as New England) had been a colony of Britain for over hundred fifty years. However, the Allied Forces of the East 13 states led by General George Washington rebelled against the British Parliament for the liability to pay taxes as their foreign territory without suffrage ('No Taxation without Representation'). And they declared their 'independence' on the fourth of July in 1776 to challenge a war to the Britain.

In order to commemorate this day, they have big celebrations in the United States every year. The Independence Day as a national holiday itself is not realistic for Japanese people. Because we had been living here in Japan Archipelago for a long time before we recognized that we are Japanese, and we became Japanese without noticing it or without choosing it on our own by coming here cross the ocean. Looking at National Holiday in Japan carefully, most of them are called "as a day of something." This means that those holidays do not commemorate actual events in the history, what happened on that day, but they were established just to increase holidays calling them such abstract names as Greenery Day and Respect-for-the-Aged Day. (Exceptions are Constitution Day proclaimed on the 3rd of May in 1947 and Emperor's Birthday on the 23rd of December.) On the other hand, some developing countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America which became independent especially after the World War 2, as a memory of an event happened in the history, they regard the day as their starting point by the name of 'the farther of Independence' and the specific date. This is the most different point from Japanese holidays.

"Pledge of Allegiance" is an Unconstitutional?

On 27th of June, I was surprised to hear the satellite news at a hotel in Yogyakarta, the old capital of Indonesia where I visited to attend to the ACRP (Asian Conference on Religion and Peace). CNN was reporting 'an incident'. Roughly speaking, the news was 'on 26th, the Federal Court of Appeal in San Francisco passed judgement that "Pledge of Allegiance" which is normally held at public schools is offending against the Constitution that established "Separation of Church and State"'.

I suppose my web site readers have seen it on the TV or in a movie that the flag Stars and Stripes was hanging proudly next to the blackboard in a classroom in the United States. In Japan hanging the rising-Sun flag on the wall at the ceremony hall becomes a big issue even it is like an ornament of the hall only when they have the commencement or the graduation ceremony there. On the other hand, in the United States the pupils often have to put their hand on the chest in front of the flag in each classrooms and recite "Pledge of Allegiance" by saying 'I swear the United States, the country of the freedom and the justice united under God'. (This is exactly the same as the militarism education that we had to recite "the Educational Imperial Rescript" in front of the sacred image of the Emperor Hirohito at schools during the WW2 time.)

"Pledge of Allegiance" in a classroom where
the President George W. Bush visited

We, who live in Japan, the country of the secularism, might see this sight as the totalitarianism in the North Korea or the one by the Nazi, but the majority of the Americans have accepted it without incongruity since their childhood. In a big international sport event such as the Olympic game and the FIFA World Cup, Japanese players rarely sing the national anthem loudly and there are little who put the hand on the chest to respect the flag. (Note: A soldier salute by putting the right hand on the forehead, while a civilian salute by putting the right hand on the chest.) However, the American players put their hands on the chest proudly and sing their national anthem. In the background of this situation, there was a different way of education for the national flag and the national anthem at elementary and secondly schools between Japan and the United States. From my point of view, it is unpleasant that the President of the United States where 'Separation of Church and State' is put in the revised first clause of the Constitute, always ends his speech with 'May God Bless America', but the most of the Americans have never wondered it.

What Kind of God the Country is Under?

The Federal Court of Appeal in San Francisco passed judgement that the "Pledge of Allegiance (for the United States)", which is almost forced to recite at public schools, was against the constitution. And this judgement applies only to the public schools in those 9 states such as California, Washington, Oregon, Arizona, Nevada and so on, where are within the jurisdiction of the Federal Court which governs the west coast area. The person who brought this suit was an atheist, Dr. Michael Newdow in Sacramento, the state capital of California. He raised an objection to the fact that his daughter was forced to recite this Pledge of Allegiance every day at the elementary school. However, he does not reject the royalty for the States. He adheres to one phrase in "Pledge of Allegiance", that is, the phrase 'One Nation under God'.

Because 'God' in this phrase starts with a capital letter and generally it is supposed to refer to 'Yahweh' of Judaism / Christianity. However, naturally it is pointed out that 'to insert a prayer of a specific religion itself is against the Constitution?' in the United States, a multiracial national which consists of various immigrants with different culture such as Muslims, Buddhist and Hindus. In other words, he appealed the unconstitutionality of forcing to recite the message at public schools, which remind us 'a state religion' that is denied in the constitution clearly. And as a natural result, it was judged as unconstitutional by the Federal Court of Appeal.

Perhaps the Federal Government will object to this judgement and appeal to the Federal Supreme Court, but before their taking action a big opposition rose from here and there in the States. Especially, in the Congress, the 90 % of the Congressmen regardless of the Republican or the Democrat asserted 'the expression of "One Nation under God" is correct' and insisted 'there is no need to change it'. For me it was surprising. In the democratic state, 'freedom of speech' must be guaranteed for even those who deny the democracy. Otherwise, it is the same as the totalitarian state where inconvenient expressions for the majority are forced to disappear ("The Suicide of the Democracy: the Debt of the French Presidential Election"). Of course, this applies to 'freedom of belief' as well. Since last year, the 11th of September, the atmosphere of a simple dualistic patriotism (Note: To divide what ever the thing is into either good or bad.) has been filled in the United States and in that situation you will be under the high pressure when you give your opinion in public, like you are doubting the country's permanent propriety. It is as if you are a citizen of the totalitarian state who is chased by the police.

The United States is a Sacred Nation

In fact, this expression of 'One Nation under God' had not existed for a long time. During the period of the President Eisenhower (1954) when the confrontation of the Cold War between the United States and Soviet Unions became more severe, "Pledge of Allegiance" had been done in a different way in each States. Then, a law to add this 'One Nation under God' phrase was established in the Federal Congress and spread all over the United States. When President Eisenhower signed this law he referred, 'Countless pupils in our country are going to take an oath that this country and the people devote ourselves to Almighty God every day from at school in an urban city to the one in a rural village'. This is fair enough to be surprised. As far as that goes, the phrase, 'In God We Trust', is printed in US dollar notes. This means, as I mentioned over again, that the United States of America is a nation we cannot think without 'God', but most of Japanese does not recognize it and that is a problem.

For example, everybody understand that the Church and the State are united in the Vatican City, where is the head temple of at least a billion of the Roman Catholic and the Pope is the sovereign. Or many Muslim countries in the Middle East include Afghanistan their politics is the agreement of Islam and State in a sense. (Note: A Muslim law called 'Shariah' is being put in force.) Apart from the question if it is right or wrong, Japanese people knows that fact very well. However, there are quite few of them who understand the fact that the United States, being proud of their powerful strength of military and economy, is a very religious country and that they do not hesitate to judge right from wrong by their religion which Japanese people cannot accept. And I think it is dangerous.

Self-Conflict of the Religious Nation America

I have empathized 'the Religious Nation of America' over again in 'The Chief's Subjectivity', but its harshness is unable to compare with the harshness that, regarding 'Pledge of Allegiance', American media repulsed against the judgement of the Court and the Congress which passed it as unconstitutional. Their opinion is 'How dare you can make it relative, our own Almighty God (the majority of the people believe in)'. However, it can be applied to the suspicion of the concept of the foundation of the United States. Because what the Puritans did is the same logic as what the Jews had done. Once Moses crossed the Red Sea at the risk of his life in order to escape from a yoke of the Pharaoh and founded Israel in Canaan, the Promised Land. (Note: Of course, this is what the Jews say and even nowadays it cause trouble to the Palestinian who lost their 'Promised Land.) There is some similarity. The Puritans escaped from Britain wishing for 'religious freedom' from the control of the Church of England. They crossed the Atlantic Ocean at the risk of their lives, called the American continent, the New Israel, 'Promised Land' in order to protect their belief and had no conscious of the guilt of their driving away the predecessors.

But, this story has a big conflict in itself. Originally, the Pilgrims Fathers must have established the country wishing for the religious freedom. Therefore, the spirit of 'not having a state religion in any sense' is described in the revised first clause of the Constitution. However, the truth is that the conflict, 'this is the country led by God' in a sense of Judaism/Christianity, is implied. And nobody doubts it as this God is God. Instead of the God, if this expression was changed into 'One Nation under (Hindu's) Shiva, (Buddhist's) Boddhisatva or (Shinto's) Kami', then American people started to complain.

The people and the leader of this country, who cannot understand their (own almighty) God is just one of religions serve the existence of those gods, behave audaciously in the world with the background of their powerful strength of military and economy, which they happen to have. Objectively, this is a tragedy for all humankind. ("The System Called America Making Unhappy for the World") It seems to hear the voice in American's heart thinking 'The God of Afghan is not a God. Similarly, Afghan people are not people.' The other day the United States exploded a place 'by mistake' in Afghanistan, where the common people were gathering at a wedding party and they seem no to take the responsibility for it. This behavior shows the haughtiness of Americans. How long the people of the world let their tyranny pass?