In Defending Rights There Are No Trivial Issues

image of VP Biden taking the oath of office
Vice President Biden taking the oath of office 01/20/2013

The other day I read that a Republican legislator, in Arizona, introduced a bill that would require high school students to take a loyalty oath before being allowed to graduate. The oath includes the usual invoking of God clap trap we see in the Pledge of Allegiance. The requirement is stupid, doesn’t help educate kids, and could be used to discriminate against people who either don’t believe in such pledges or don’t believe in the God part like Atheists. What bothered me more was the reaction from an Atheist who thought the possibility for discrimination was trivial and nothing to get worked up about. In defending our rights nothing should be trivial.

Here is the text of the proposed high school graduation loyalty oath:

I, _________, do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic, that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge these duties; So help me God. 

It is similar to the oath taken by the Vice President, other elected officials, and the military. Besides the issue of invoking God, the “I take this obligation freely” part is irrational in an oath required to get a diploma because if it is required then you aren’t taking the obligation freely. The other issue is the need for a citizen to take a loyalty oath. Once we are citizens any additional requirements to enjoy the rights and benefits of being a citizen should be examined with suspicion. It smacks of fascism.

Rebecca Watson, over at Skepchick, claims that this is all a foolish exercise, nothing to worry about, and we should all just move along:

For a start, “so help me God” is a common oath that, over the centuries, has become fairly irrelevant and is now said as a matter of custom more than a serious appeal to an all-powerful deity. Even so, most oaths in the US allow a person to skip it. Some states, though, still require “so help me God” in their oaths, so we could have equally fear-mongering headlines like Atheists Barred from Office in Massachusetts, despite the fact that the second an atheist complained about it, the oath would be dropped.

No, Arizona is Not Making it Illegal for Atheists to Graduate High School

This is an odd reaction from someone who claims social justice is important to her.

When defending civil rights there are no trivial issues. Words mean things and for theists symbolism is the utmost importance. Forcing students to recite “so help me God” is the theist way of putting God back into the public schools. Like with the pledge of allegiance, children could be discriminated against if they don’t say the God part and if this bill were to pass into law, there is a possibility that atheists could be kept from graduating even if the God part is common and “fairly irrelevant” to us rational people.

Watson then claims that the Republican legislator who introduced the bill, Rep. Bob Thorpe, says he plans to amend it to allow for exceptions so all is good.

Really? We should take the word of a radical Tea Party Republican that he plans on fixing the bill? Politicians say many things but actions speak louder than words. His response proves that speaking out in our dissent is the correct action.

The oath is constitutionally suspect even without the God pledge and more so with it in. The state can’t make you pledge to any God but staying silent about it or ignoring it won’t stop idiots like Rep. Bob Thorpe for introducing such bills. Complaining will clue people in to think twice before trying to make laws that force people to follow a particular religion. You would think they would have gotten the message by now but we have to keep bringing it up.

Theists always use silence from dissenters as “proof” that what they are doing is right so we dissenters have to keep speaking out. The whole point of social justice is to speak out as loudly as possible or we will get steam rolled by the tyranny of the mob.