Atheists and radical church-state separatists have taken particular offense to the continued uttering of the Pledge of Allegiance. To these individuals, the words "under God" have no place in the public square, even when utterances are voluntary in nature.
Now, there's a new epicenter in the debate over the Pledge. Following the 10th anniversary of the September 11 attacks, the University of Connecticut's interim athletic director, Paul Pendergast, decided to add the recitation as a viable way for individuals to remember both the nation and U.S. troops. Following his decision, the Pledge was first uttered after a home football game on September 16 and the response was so positive that it was extended to all football and basketball games.
Geno Auriemma, UConn's women's basketball coach, agrees with the decision to include it and has been open about his support for saying the Pledge. "It's like anything else, you're gonna have people that complain about it and people that love it," he said at a press conference last week. "And then you have the wackos that say 'well we shouldn't bring God into this,' because you have to say 'one nation under God' right?"
The decision, which has now led to the Pledge being uttered before most athletic games, is angering fans who believe the action violates the nation's separation of church and state sentiment. Others claim that it puts non-American athletes in an unfair position -- even though these individuals are obviously studying on U.S. soil and can opt out of pledging any allegiance to the country.
The New York Times has more about the debate:
An online poll conducted by The Hartford Courant indicated that respondents were more than 2 to 1 in favor of reciting the pledge, while a smaller poll on a UConn fan Web site was nearly 2 to 1 against it. Interviews with more than a dozen fans who attended Saturday’s game showed a nearly 50-50 split.
But when WTNH-TV went looking for those who may stand opposed to the Pledge, it took them sifting through 18 people before they found someone who refused to partake in it.
"I think it is a bit much. I am as patriotic as the next guy, but it is inappropriate," said Ron Masiero, the man who stands opposed to the change. "It's a sporting event, I come here to enjoy the basketball game." Masiero, of course, was the 18th guy.
Others, though, showed their support for the measure. "Some people say because it has the words 'under God' in it we shouldn't be saying it," said fan Bill Strand. "I disagree with that. We are a country that was built under God and I'll die that way."
"If you don't believe in God, don't say anything. If you do, say the Pledge of Allegiance," added Newton Schievel. Another person said that if people don't like the Pledge being said, they can "find another country."
Some legal experts, though they may personally disagree, claim that the university is within legal bounds -- so long as the pledge remains optional.