Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Hey, He Don't Like 'The Pledge.' String Him Up!

I've been to Estes Park, Colorado. It's a beautiful little community and, from what I recall, the gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park. But an election held yesterday in Estes Park shows that, while this town may be pretty on the outside, it has some real ugliness lurking within.

The town held a recall election yesterday to remove David Habecker from the Estes Park Board of Trustees (city council) after he determined that the phrase "one nation, under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance was something he could not say. Like many municipalities, Estes Park requires that the Pledge be recited before public meetings and Habecker eventually chose to sit during the Pledge instead of rising and reciting it.

See stories in the Denver Post and the Rocky Mountain News.

Sadly, Habecker assumed that this freedom of expression would all be protected by his First Amendment rights and that he was taking a moral and ethical high road.

Wrong, David. Not in the America we are becoming.

Habecker, like many of us who have actually studied what our founding fathers envisioned, understood that we have a separation of church and state. Like me, he believes that the phrase "under God" – which was only added to the Pledge in 1954 in support of the McCarthy witch hunt – has no place in any government document or pledge.

Habecker was recalled by a vote of 903 to 605. We salute those smart Estes Parkians who embrace real patriotic values and understand two important things: First, that our entire country should not be like a Bush-Cheney campaign rally, where you are only admitted if you sign or recite a loyalty oath. And second, that the framers of our constitution intended that Americans enjoy freedom of religion and freedom from religion. "Under God" and "in God we trust" have no place in our government, whether in dialogue, legislation, currency or national symbols.

That an elected official could be removed from office for something like this is the most profoundly un-American thing I have heard in some time.

"This has become very emotional for this town," said Ann Neering, an Estes Park resident since 1978. She voted for Habecker's recall, saying it was a simple "black-and- white" issue.

"If you don't want to say the Pledge, you should leave the country," Neering said.

And that, my friends, is some backwoods patriotism.