One nation, under the Constitution By Julianna Evans

evans 2ndJulianna received $2,000 from FFRF for her winning essay.

By Julianna Evans

In schools across the country, students like me are pressured to stand and recite the Pledge of Allegiance each morning. While I don’t see any problem with reciting such a pledge to our country and the values which we hold important, I do have a problem with two words in it: “under God.”

In a land of freedom of expression and protection of beliefs, those two words violate the ideals and laws we value. As a nonbeliever, I think I can speak for many people — nonbelievers and members of non-Christian religions — in saying that “under God” is overtly Judeo-Christian and has no place in American public schools or government. 

I have never believed in a higher power, and I have always tried to be open-minded and a critical thinker. Although my mother took me to a Lutheran church to expose me to religion, I never felt any sort of religious connection. Both of my parents are nonreligious and have been very supportive of my nonbelief, but my school experiences have shown me that many people won’t accept those who don’t share their beliefs. 

Last year my humanities teacher required students to write a speech about a controversial topic we felt strongly about. I chose the Pledge of Allegiance and focused on why we should remove “under God” from it.

I targeted the issue in an objective way and presented it in a factual and logical manner. I did not make provocative remarks against Christianity, but focused on the viewpoint that religion has no place in public institutions. The response I received from my classmates was astonishing to me. I experienced hostile looks, eye-rolling, muttering and scoffing, primarily from classmates who were heavily involved with their church’s youth group.

That my speech was so rudely received was very hurtful to me. Due to this experience, I was less willing to express my views on religion, though I am now returning to the mindset that my nonbelief is part of who I am, and no amount of religious discrimination should prevent me from expressing myself. I would gladly present my speech again and again to advocate for separation of church and state. 

I have also been directly influenced by the enforcement of the Pledge of Allegiance in my school. Every morning I am asked to stand with my classmates and recite it with my hand placed over my heart. It has become routine for me to skip the “under God” or to simply not say the pledge at all.

It is uncomfortable for me to be participating in a tradition that, through the addition of two words, goes against my beliefs. But if I were to not participate, I would be ridiculed and regarded as unpatriotic. I love my country just as much as any other American. It’s wrong to associate a pledge and the freedom and justice the flag stands for to something as unrelated as religion. 

Many people may wonder why this such an important issue for me, when seemingly it’s a such a small issue. But we must remember that it’s not just the large violations of rights which are important. If we submit to small violations, we run the risk of accepting larger and larger violations.

In issues such as these, we must adopt a “zero tolerance” policy regarding the entanglement of religion and government. With a firewall between church and state, we will then progress in our goal of freedom of and from religion, and of being a nation “with liberty and justice for all.” 


Julianna writes: “I am 18 and attended Fauquier High School in Warrenton, Va.. and Mountain Vista Governor’s School for Science and Technology in Warrenton. I will be attending Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University to pursue a degree in aerospace engineering. I was heavily involved in my school’s marching band program and was Math Club secretary and a Secular Student Alliance member. I won a Gold Medal award for innovation in computer science in March at James Madison University’s Junior Science and Humanities Symposium.” 


Editor’s note: In 1943, in West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette, the Supreme Court ruled that students and all others have a constitutional right not to be forced to participate in the Pledge of Allegiance. From FFRF’s State-Church FAQ:

“Nor should a student be singled out, rebuked, told they must stand, or otherwise be penalized for following their freedom of conscience. Nor should students who participate in the pledge, or who volunteer to lead the class in the pledge or to recite it over the intercom, be rewarded or favored over students who don’t participate.” (scroll down to Pledge of Allegiance).

Freedom From Religion Foundation