Religion

One Nation, Over God

Hey guys, did you hear? NBC turned all their viewers into accidental Satanists by airing a saccharine recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance prior to a golf tournament without including the words, “under God, indivisible.” Who dares to stand up against this horrific injustice? One man: Senator Dan Coats from Indiana, you are a true American hero.

Plenty of angry, ignorant religious folk complained both to Twitter and to NBC because they felt that rather than an obvious oversight, NBC was making a specific statement that they hate God and/or would prefer if the majority of their viewership would just grow up already and stop believing in fairytales. No, seriously: check out this hysterical opinion piece from Fox News titled “Does NBC stand for ‘No Believers, (Especially) Christians’?” Ha ha, yes Fox News, that is exactly what NBC stands for. Hide your Bibles! Today it’s a pre-game ad, tomorrow it’s the cast of 30 Rock going door to door melting down crucifixes to mint new gold coins that don’t have “In God We Trust” on them.

Let’s be clear: it was a stupid montage of various people reciting the pledge, with lots of edits that make it relatively easy for one segment to accidentally end up on the cutting room floor. Had they meant to leave out “under God,” they probably would have kept in the word “indivisible.” But of course, even if they had meant to leave out “under God,” they simply would have been using an earlier, pre-1954 version of the pledge – a version favored by many of us who prefer God be left in the realm of churches and out of our government-approved jingoistic indoctrination chants.

I don’t really care about dozens (hundreds? thousands?) of ignorant, angry Christians writing to NBC to express their anger. It’s their right to let NBC know that they’ll stop watching Touched by an Angel or whatever unless the network starts honoring their god during televised golf tournaments. What I do care about is politicians wasting their time and our tax dollars to score cheap points by “investigating” what happened here.

In his letter, Coats writes, “I am disturbed with NBC’s decision to modify the Pledge for this broadcast. I understand that NBC acknowledged its error at a later point in Sunday’s broadcast, and has since stated that this action was a ‘bad decision’ made by a small group of individuals. Nonetheless, I remain concerned that such a decision to selectively edit the Pledge could be made in the first place.”

Coats asked NBC to provide a written account of its decision-making process and what actions the network will take to prevent a similar occurrence from happening in the future.

Are you kidding me? It’s neither Coats’ business nor that of the US Government to know why NBC airs what it airs. The network could have aired “I pledge allegiance to the Chinese government” and not had to deal with a fame-hungry senator writing them haughty letters with official US Senate letterhead. In fact, one organization did air an ad that said exactly that on TV in 2009, with, as far as I can tell, no formal investigation by any Senator:

Children: I pledge allegiance to America’s debt, and to the Chinese government that lends us money. And to the interest, for which we pay, compoundable, with higher taxes and lower pay until the day we die.

VO: American tax payers owe more than $500 million in interest payments every day to cover our government?s debt, much of that debt is owe to foreign governments. Go to DefeatTheDebt.com.

Girl: Debt Stinks.

Or what about something along the lines of, “I pledge allegiance to my tits”? Done!

That also ran on TV in 2009, and again, there was no angry letter from a Senator, and there shouldn’t be one now. Why? Because we don’t live in a giant treehouse where Senator Coats gets to decide what pledges companies can make up.

For those of you in Indiana: why not call Senator Coats and tell him to leave Britney NBC alone and get to work on things that matter, like jobs and protecting women’s health? Worth a shot, anyway.

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Rebecca Watson

Rebecca leads a team of skeptical female activists at Skepchick.org. She travels around the world delivering entertaining talks on science, atheism, feminism, and skepticism. There is currently an asteroid orbiting the sun with her name on it. You can follow her every fascinating move on Twitter or on Google+.

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30 Comments

  1. check out this hysterical opinion piece from Fox News titled “Does NBC stand for ‘No Believers, (Especially) Christians’?”
    Ha ha, yes that’s right and FOX stands for “Fucking Obnoxious Xenophobes”.
    No? Well you could have fooled me.

  2. Coats asked NBC to provide a written account of its decision-making process and what actions the network will take to prevent a similar occurrence from happening in the future.
    This just sickens me; I hope NBC tells the Senator to cram it up his ass.

    1. Oh, that would be so awesome if they did! It’s not going to happen, as the backtracking and apologizing already appears to have begun, but I can’t think of a better way of being dismissive and pointing out how frivolous the complaint is at the same time :)

  3. ”NBC’s pathetic apology just compounded the offense and they tried a second apology. Chris McCloskey, vice president for NBCUniversal Sports and Olympics, said in a released statement, according to CNN: ‘We are aware of the distress this has caused many of our viewers and are taking the issue very seriously.’ Notice it didn’t cause anyone at CNN ‘distress.’”

    Are you kidding? Why should CNN be outraged over the same bullshit as Fox? I guess they need trumped up outrage from whatever source provides it; the War on Christmas comes but once a year.

  4. I would like written documentation and minutes of every meeting with lobbyists timed in conjunction with bills, voted on by Sen. Coats, that involved the industries and subject matter to which those lobbyists are connected (such as ethanol production). It needs to be exhaustive and detailed without leaving out any names, places or activities that may have occurred during said meetings.

    Then I would like to see Sen. Coats lose interest rapidly as the story fades from public interest and look for some other PR opportunity.

  5. Rebecca, I have no problem with your politics or your atheism, or your frustration over politically active religious conservatives. And for the record, I have no problem pledging allegiance to tits, either.

    However, once again your politics seems to be overwhelming your critical thinking. The words ‘under God’ in the pledge have been a hot political topic (in some circles) for many years now. A slew of court cases have targeted those two words for removal, but the decisions have consistently upheld their inclusion (including a 2010 9th circuit ruling, probably the most liberal circuit court in the US). This isn’t an issue being made up out of wholecloth, it’s an ongoing political and legal debate.

    You incorrectly state that this was an ‘obvious oversight’ by NBC. In their statement, quoted in the very same Fox News article you cite, NBC says that this was “a decision was made by a small group of people.” The statement doesn’t assign motives, however the evidence suggests that, apart from being an ‘oversight’, this was a purposeful edit made by people who likely agree with your point of view.

    You correctly state that the pledge pre-1954 did not include the words ‘under God.’ However, you leave out the fact that President Eisenhower signed those two words into US law following passage by both houses of Congress. I don’t have a problem with you disagreeing with that law, but if you’re really serious about this issue, don’t yell at Coats, work to change the law.

    Calling someone ‘ignorant’ simply because they believe something you don’t doesn’t advance your political argument. Especially when you make no arguement for their ignorance. It sounds like, to mimic Jay from the SGU, you’re saying ‘Oh yea.’ In a political disagreement, I have no issue with two sides arguing over value judgments, however I have a huge issue with someone name calling, misrepresenting the other side’s position or the facts of the issue at hand, as you seem wont to do.

    1. Oy vey, where to even begin?
      .

      “You incorrectly state that this was an ‘obvious oversight’ by NBC. “

      .
      No, I said that religious viewers chose not to believe that it was obvious oversight. I allowed for the possibility that it was purposely dropped.
      .

      “You correctly state that the pledge pre-1954 did not include the words ‘under God.’ However, you leave out the fact that President Eisenhower signed those two words into US law following passage by both houses of Congress. “

      .
      Because I choose to believe the readers here aren’t idiots, I don’t feel the need to spell out the fact that “under God” was, in 1954, added to the pledge. I thought that would be obvious and for anyone wanting details, Google is right there. Nothing I left out is damning to my argument.
      .

      “if you’re really serious about this issue, don’t yell at Coats, work to change the law.”

      .
      You seem to be confused here. The law Eisenhower signed dictates the wording of the Pledge. It does not legally require companies to include the pledge in full prior to the broadcast of golf tournaments.

      Calling someone ‘ignorant’ simply because they believe something you don’t doesn’t advance your political argument.

      I used the word “ignorant” because the bulk of these people appear to be ignorant to the fact that their god does not legally deserve mention in a broadcast. They also appear to be ignorant of the changes made to the pledge. The word is correct.

      1. “The law Eisenhower signed dictates the wording of the Pledge. It does not legally require companies to include the pledge in full prior to the broadcast of golf tournaments.”

        This is the part that many people seem to be missing. It would be nice if NBC had the courage to point this out publicly.

      2. The first 2 1/2 paragraphs of this post – and specifically the first half of paragraph 3 – give your readers the false impression that NBC made an ‘oversight.’ Your thesis, loosely speaking, was that this is whole thing was an accident, but you allow that even if it wasn’t, it’s still stupid. I don’t think I’m being too pedantic here, but you were wrong, and the very link you provided contained the evidence that this was a conscious decision made by a small group of people at NBC. That fact changes the meaning/tone of your first 2 1/2 paragraphs.

        And I’m not confused about the law, I included that bit only to explain to your readers who didn’t know, as most people don’t, that the wording of the pledge is written into US law. It’s not something that was randomly added by some lyricist on a whim in 1954, it was well debated, passed by both houses of Congress, signed by the President, and has since been upheld by the courts. And it’s a hot political issue (in some circles). That’s relevant background, that you left out, which gives the reader more perspective on the issue, and could give some insight into why a US Senator is interested.

        I don’t think the viewers complaining to NBC believe the network is legally bound to broadcast the words ‘under God,’ (which of course they’re not) and you provide no evidence to support this view. I believe they’re practicing a form of protest, as I’m sure you and many of your readers have done on issues you’re concerned with – and for which you actually advocate at the end of the post. Finally, I’d be willing to bet that many of your readers were ignorant of the legal status as well as the changes to the pledge almost 60 years ago. You appeared to use the word ‘ignorant’ as a term of derision. I understand and appreciate that much of your writing is tongue-in-cheek and you use humor very well. And perhaps if I’m looking for a fair, meaningful discussion of political topics I’ve come to the wrong place. My point is simple, I’ve heard you and others on the SGU cry foul when creationists, for example, misrepresent the skeptical scientific position. Yet in your two recent blog posts on politics, it seems like you’re doing the same thing.

        1. “I don’t think the viewers complaining to NBC believe the network is legally bound to broadcast the words ‘under God,’ (which of course they’re not) and you provide no evidence to support this view.”
          .
          Nope nope nope. Please reread. I specifically said that these viewers have every right to complain and ask NBC to honor their god. I chastise the Senator for thinking he has a right to declare what NBC may and may not pledge.

          1. In your reply to my comment you wrote:

            “I used the word “ignorant” because the bulk of these people appear to be ignorant to the fact that their god does not legally deserve mention in a broadcast.”

        2. “I included that bit only to explain to your readers who didn’t know, as most people don’t, that the wording of the pledge is written into US law. It’s not something that was randomly added by some lyricist on a whim in 1954, it was well debated, passed by both houses of Congress, signed by the President, and has since been upheld by the courts. And it’s a hot political issue (in some circles). That’s relevant background, that you left out, which gives the reader more perspective on the issue, and could give some insight into why a US Senator is interested.”

          And I, for one, am glad that you did indlude that information. Like a lot of Skepchick followers I am neither American, nor a student of American history. American bloggers appear to have a frequent tendency to forget that non-Americans follow their blogs. Lots of us.

    2. Re: “However, you leave out the fact that President Eisenhower signed those two words into US law following passage by both houses of Congress.”

      Ah yes… Saint Dwight and the Congress of Cardinals. The imprimatur guarantees a lack of stupidity and unconstitutionality.

  6. Changing or defacing any iconic emblem, anthem, pledge, flag, etc. is by its very nature a political statement. It is recognized in this country (USA) as a form of protected free speech. I am not the least bit surprised people got upset.

    I watched the segment and I don’t see how that was unintentional. Someone at NBC made statement. Unfortunately, from what I can tell, the christian media is getting all the positive press from the event. It is a shame the “separation of church and state” community can’t capitalize on the event to point out that the Pledge of Allegiance should represent all Americans regardless of how one feels about god. There is (was?) an opportunity at the national level to start the debate.

    Peace out,
    JP

  7. I noted this omission as I watched the golf and heard the comments by on course announcers. Then a couple of days later heard Glen Beck on Fox sprouting his usual crapola about NBC leaving out god and indivisible from the pledge.
    I don’t know when this senator made his feelings heard but I bet he got it from Beck who seems to monitor every channel every day. Beck’s chalkboard analysis of events is pure theatre and I get a great kick out of it. I’m Australian.
    Senator Coats seems to reflect a side of global politics that is holding on to an ever receding religious narrative.

    If I may…non sequitur… do you have any control over the advertisements that appear right of screen…
    After reading an excellent article on feminism, I saw an advert of bikini clad Filipino girls and women looking for partners..” take your pick “.
    Seemed like a case of bad placement to me.

  8. To me, Coats isn’t ignorant because he disagrees with Rebecca (with whom I agree); he is ignorant because he is calling for someone to be fired for omitting some words, that pay homage to his imaginary friend, from song that a montage of children sang before a golf game on TV.

    And he expects to be taken seriously. And sadly, he will be taken very seriously. By a whole bunch of profoundly ignorant people.

  9. Sacred words and symbols will always be a rally point for fundies. Be it forced respect for the flag or being unpatriotic for disagreeing with what the government is doing, it is all the kind of unquestioning respect for authority they thrive on. (Provided it is the “right kind” of authority.)

  10. The people getting worked up over this are just being silly, even on a religious scale. C’mon, you saw that somebody messed up The Pledge (worse than usual) and that is what pissed you off? Amid South Park and all of those specials about evolution and reason, that was what offended your Christian sensibilities? Wuss.

    If people are going to rise up against any television sensation, surely, it’s Glee that most deserves the chop, anyhow. It is certainly more likely to destroy our universe.

    Frankly, I am not so keen on The Pledge anyhow.
    Mostly because everybody seems to say “I pledge of allegiance…” when, really, it makes more sense as “I pledge MY allegiance…” or “I pledge allegiance…”. It’s better (and written) that way and nobody seems to get it right. As a matter of fact, I am not a big fan of oaths in general. They are just empty promises at best, and at worst, they are extended lies in poem form.

  11. I (would rather not) pledge allegiance to the tattered flag of the Divided States of America, and to the Christian fundamentalists, rapacious corporations, and military-industrial complex for which they stand, an indebted nation, under surveillance, socially, politically, and culturally divisible, with liberty and justice for all.*

    * Some restrictions apply. Please see you local GOP representative for details.

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