This is Flag Day -- marking the date in 1777 when John Adams proposed the stars and stripes as the official flag of the United States. One of many ceremonies will be held at Fort McHenry in Baltimore. It was the sight of the flag still flying there after an overnight battle with the British in the War of 1812 that inspired Francis Scott Key to write a poem, which became the words of the national anthem. Flag Day events often center around reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, written by Francis Bellamy and first recited in public in 1892 by schoolchildren at a Columbus Day ceremony. Making flags, banners, and pennants is a nearly $5 billion annual business in the U.S.
The Boston Globe reports:
A Middlesex Superior Court judge has rejected a lawsuit by an atheist couple and their children who sued the Acton-Boxborough Regional School District and the Acton schools challenging the use of the words “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance.
Judge S. Jane Haggerty, in a ruling released Friday, said the daily recitation of the pledge with those words did not violate the plaintiffs’ rights under the Massachusetts Constitution, did not violate the school district’s antidiscrimination policy, and did not violate state law.
The plaintiffs, while acknowledging that the children had the right to refuse to participate in the pledge, asserted that the phrase “under God” was a “religious truth” that contradicted their beliefs, Haggerty said.
The defendants argued that the pledge, rather than a religious document or ceremony, is a patriotic exercise and statement of political philosophy, according to the ruling.
The judge observed that the case presents a “familiar dilemma in our pluralistic society — how to balance conflicting interests when one group wants to do something for patriotic reasons that another group finds offensive to its religious (or atheistic) beliefs.”
The judge ruled in her 24-page opinion that the phrase “under God” was not a religious truth.
Citing previous opinions, she said that the daily flag salute and pledge in schools are “clearly designed to inculcate patriotism and to instill a recognition of the blessings conferred by orderly government under the constitutions of the state and nation.”
“The Pledge is a voluntary patriotic exercise, and the inclusion of the phrase ‘under God’ does not convert the exercise into a prayer,” she wrote.
Ten Navy ships, including USS Fort McHenry, are commemorating Flag Day today at the site of the historic War of 1812 battle 200 years ago that inspired the National Anthem.
The War of 1812 centered on maritime disputes between the United States and Great Britain...[W]ith naval battles in North America, off South America and Great Britain, and in the Pacific and Indian oceans, the War of 1812 was predominantly a sea campaign. It served as a defining moment for the fledging U.S. Navy, which fought the British as they tried to blockade the Atlantic coast and support land forces from Lake Erie and Lake Champlain, leading to the birth of America’s modern sea services.
“The War of 1812 is significant because it paved the way for future development of the U.S. Navy,” said U.S. Naval War College Professor Kevin McCranie, author of the soon-to-be-released book, “Utmost Gallantry: The U.S. and Royal Navies at Sea in the War of 1812.”
"Challenging the most dominant naval power of the time, the less powerful U.S. Navy found ways to protract the war and incurred significant costs for Great Britain,” he said. “That’s why the War of 1812 is important for national leaders to study.”