Jay Michaelson in his article “Is the Pledge merely Ceremonial Deism?” argues that ceremonial deism is, in fact, not what it stands for and does bear a certain religious meaning, as in the case of the use of the word “God” in the American pledge of allegiance to the Flag. The way Michaelson organizes his argument may seem like a long introduction (which can be assumed to have taken at least half of the article), then a brief one-paragraph discussion on the meaning of ceremonial deism with the last paragraph calling for more questions than providing answers.
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Michaelson’s main point of discussion is his assumption that the words “one nation under God” (Washington Secretary of state, sos.wa.gov) in the Pledge fail a series of common legal tests such as the Lemon test, the Endorsement test and the principles of Neutrality (Michaelson, para 2). In the first half, consisting of three paragraphs, Michaelson refers to two cases where the opinions of Justices Brennan and O’Connor are presented, both supporting the idea that the exclusion of “under God” from the pledge is not necessary, since it is only ceremonially deistic. Michaelson likewise specifies that the latter Justice was even more verbose in his defense of the phrase that the former. It is clearly seen that Michaelson is against having such “religious” phrases in the governmental documents down in the paragraph where he states that the power of the words should not be measured by their numerical characteristics (in the case with the Pledge – a two-word debatable phrase “under God”), but by the imported context that comes with such phrases. He differentiates the notions of “content” and “import”, arguing that “under God” is an imported phrase with relation to the general meaning of the Pledge. He seems to maintain that the phrase brings with itself such kind of content, the context of which does not follow the general non-discriminative neutrality for all sorts of citizens of the United States. The way I would structure the argument would be a little different. First of all, I would begin with clarifying the terms so that they would be equally clear for both a professional lawyer and a general citizen who is reading the article for his or her personal research. I would point out that in the American jurisprudence there is a notion which deals specifically with the use of religious notions in legal governmental documents. Its usage, however, is questioned by the inconsistency of its definition and its actual use, which calls for a discussion of whether there are some double standards for the use of religious terms in law. Then I would provide my argument with the evidence by taking a more detailed look at such case as Newdow v. Congress of United States. My next step would be to maintain that we may well think that government “goes out of the way” not to change the situation with respect to what it conveniently calls “ceremonial deism”. To support the claim I would explain that ceremonial deism is used in law to describe notions that have lost any substantial religious meaning because of routine repetition, as explained in many words in the case Lynch v. Donnelly. Afterwards, I would suggest that the contemporary American culture does not take lightly even such innocent phrases like “under God”. My evidence for this idea would be the hot mass media discussions on whether Barack Obama wanted or not to refrain from proclaiming the Pledge containing the debatable phrase. Such media response questions the irreligious presence of “under God” in the Pledge. Later on I would try to explain this phenomenon through the difference between “content” and “import” in the form of a conclusion that sheds light on the controversial sides of the whether “under God” is bears religious content or not.
In other words, I would use change the structure of the article in such a way that statements would go first, evidence second, and this would repeat about three times, with making one paragraph for clear introduction and one for conclusion. The second statement would come logically from the evidence to the first claim, and the third claim would stem from the evidence of the second. This way, I believe, I would reach a more logically structured and a more understandable presentation of the ideas and materials to support them. I would not ask questions in conclusion, but rather provide answers of my own understanding of the problem. I believe that questions are worth a place in the middle of the argued points to draw a reader’s attention to a certain suggested answer, rather than leaving the reader wondering what the whole article was trying to say.
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