Letter to Gov. Scott McCallum

Governor Scott McCallum
Office of the Governor
115 E State Capitol
Madison WI 53702

Dear Gov. McCallum:

We are dismayed at your insensitivity to the separation of church and state, and to the rights of dissenters and unbelievers in Wisconsin and its public schools.

Yesterday you released this statement: “Most Wisconsinites are looking for ways to enhance our armed forces and support our country; some people are looking for ways to diminish our belief in God and country. It is disheartening, but in a free country you have patriots and you have the freedom for a few oddballs who place politics above patriotism.”

Clearly you are not only calling some members of the Madison School Board “oddballs,” but you are labeling unbelievers “oddballs,” as well as anyone who is concerned that schoolchildren not be coerced into religious patriotism by reciting a religious pledge.

As a member of an often ridiculed minority religion yourself (Christian Science) it would seem you might exercise more tact. As Governor of Wisconsin, you have set a tone of jingoism and divisiveness.

Your statement makes “belief in God” tantamount to “belief in country.” The founders of the United States purposefully wrote a godless Constitution whose only references to religion are exclusionary, in fact mandating no religious test for public office. They wisely did not link a belief in a god to support of the United States. You are imposing a de facto religious test on state citizens, saying you cannot be a patriot or first-class citizen unless you are a god-believer.

The Pledge of Allegiance was amended only in 1954 to include the words “under God.” Whole generations of schoolchildren grew up reciting a godless Pledge of Allegiance. We have been contacted by teachers throughout Madison and around the state who feel insulted and coerced when the religious Pledge of Allegiance is imposed on them. Parents of schoolchildren who have been singled out for not standing or saying the Pledge have expressed their concerns to us because of the pressure, painful for their children. We would point out that there are many religionists, such as Jehovah’s Witnesses, who also object to the Pledge.

Instead of attacking individuals who are exercising their rights to personal conscience, we believe you should be taking the lead in asking the State Legislature to reconsider its undemocratic action, amending the Pledge statute by stealth, by sneaking it into the State Budget–without public notification, debate or testimony.

This current debate and acrimony could have been avoided altogether had you recognized the undemocratic maneuvering, and deleted the amendment from the budget. A bill of this importance ought to be fully debated. Citizens ought to have a chance to testify and contact their legislators before a major change is adopted affecting a captive audience of schoolchildren and public school teachers.

State citizens deserve better from our Legislature and our Governor.



Annie Laurie Gaylor,
Freethought Today

Freedom From Religion Foundation

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