I was in public school in California when President Eisenhower put the “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance (which we were all required to stand and say at the beginning of each school day). Truth is, even as the unbeliever as I was and remain, all that bothered me about the addition was that it ruined the scansion.
Every Thursday after lunch, the “religion” trailers came up to the front of the school; it was sort of weekday Sunday school. I remember Catholic and Protestant trailers; there may have been a one for the very few Jewish students as well. Those of us who didn’t go to the mobile schoolrooms for an hour stayed in class and did God knows what. I looked it as time off, and sort of learned about Noah, Solomon, David, St. Peter and Jesus — again, with no reluctance; just the idea that it was time off from class.
And the truth is, I’m grateful for that small amount of religious training and other such stuff I’ve picked up through the years; ours would be a much poorer culture without the perhaps decreasingly common literature that comes from the Bible.
So — not that anybody asked — how do I feel about religion being taught in public schools? I think our district handled it pretty well. And if a teacher can deal with the Bible as literature, without getting preachy, so much the better.
I feel less enthusiastic about the Pledge of Allegiance, though. I’m all for allegiance, but not to a piece of cloth. And, like the loyalty oath, it doesn’t prove anything: do you think someone committed to subverting anything would have reservations claiming in public to support it?
But if making somebody stand and recite the Pledge of Allegiance, or sign a loyalty oath, makes those in a position to require it feel any or more secure, just hand me that pen, as soon as I sit down.