Resident who asked Issaquah School Board to drop pledge asks City Council to follow suit

January 5, 2010

By Warren Kagarise

NEW — 12:27 p.m. Jan. 5, 2009

A city resident asked the City Council to drop the Pledge of Allegiance from meetings Monday — less than a month after he asked the Issaquah School Board to remove the pledge from its meetings.

Moments after council and audience members recited the pledge, longtime Issaquah Highlands resident Matt Barry said the pledge should be eliminated because the oath is offensive to atheists and irrelevant to city business.

“You are here to discuss transportation, services, operations, etc.,” Barry said. “Taking a position on religious questions such as this, whether this nation is under zero, one or more gods is, literally, none of the government’s business.”

Francis Bellamy, a Baptist minister, wrote the original pledge in 1892. Congress added the words “under God” in 1954.

“The words ‘under God,’ which were added to the pledge in 1954, are offensive to many atheists,” Barry said. “And it’s offensive that our government officials, the mayor and City Council, ask atheists to stand and declare a belief in a god.”

The pledge and whether the oath should be recited in public schools and government meetings is a frequent flashpoint.

Barry referenced a 2002 ruling by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, when a three-judge panel declared the pledge unconstitutional because the language included “under God.” The circuit includes Washington and eight other Western states.

Atheist Michael Newdow brought on the case after his daughter was taught the pledge in a California school district. The ruling was reversed on a procedural matter in 2004, after the U.S. Supreme Court said Newdow lacked the standing to bring the suit on behalf of his daughter.

Barry described the original pledge language as inoffensive.

“I should clarify that I have no problems with the original pledge,” he said. “The original pledge, which was recited from 1892 to 1954, did not mention God. Depending on your age, your grandparents, parents or you yourself recited a godless pledge as schoolchildren back in the 1920s, ’30s, ’40s or early ’50s.”

“I’ve always thought that if a godless pledge was good enough for the World War I and World War II generations, it should be good enough for us,” Barry added.

Longtime City Council members said the request to remove the pledge from meetings was the first in memory.

Council President John Traeger, elevated to the top council spot at the meeting, said the council had no plans yet to discuss the pledge issue.

On Dec. 9, Barry asked the Issaquah School Board to remove the pledge from meetings. Barry, a district parent, said “the words ‘under God’ in the pledge are offensive to your atheist residents in this school district.”

The board indicated members could address the pledge issue in the future.

State law requires public school students to recite the pledge and conduct flag salute exercises at the start of each school day, but schools cannot force students to participate. Local government meetings are not required to include the pledge.

Mayor Ava Frisinger — elected to office in 1997 and re-elected since — said she could not recall a challenge to the pledge during her years as mayor, or when she served as a councilwoman beforehand.

“When I say we’re going to do the pledge, I invite people to join us,” Frisinger said.

Before Frisinger ascended to the top spot, council meetings opened with invocations. Frisinger recalled how the prayer made some meeting attendees uncomfortable. She then consulted with council members, and officials agreed to drop invocations from meetings.

Barry also referenced the anti-discrimination resolution passed by the council in 2002. The resolution includes protections for race, religion and other characteristics.

“I don’t think anyone would conclude that the city is doing its best to treat atheists with dignity and respect by asking them to stand and contradict their personally held beliefs,” Barry said. “On the contrary, it has been blatantly disrespectful and therefore a violation of your own anti-discrimination resolution.”

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27 Responses to “Resident who asked Issaquah School Board to drop pledge asks City Council to follow suit”

  1. Anonymous on January 5th, 2010 12:44 pm

    I’m offended that he’s offended. Sir, if the Pledge of Allegence offends you, then don’t stand or don’t attend. God is everywhere…so I guess he’s constantly offended. I feel sorry for him.

  2. Anonymous on January 5th, 2010 1:09 pm

    I personally think it’s silly people still believe in supernatural beings who know everything, will punish evil, etc. Haven’t we as a species gotten past the Easter Bunny, the Great Pumpkin, Thor, Jupiter, Santa Claus, and any and all other deities used and discarded in the past to “understand” our physical world?

  3. Anonymous on January 5th, 2010 1:11 pm

    Haven’t we as a species come far enough in our understanding of the physical world to dispose of our belief in the supernatural? The Easter Bunny, the Great Pumpkin, the Flying Spaghetti Monster, Thor, Jupiter, Santa Claus, the Judeo-Christian deities, all have their place in mythos. None have a place in understanding the real world, and it’s high time we put them aside and get on with living our lives.

  4. Anonymous on January 5th, 2010 1:25 pm

    With all do respect, I think that Mr. Barry needs to read about the founding of this country. This nation was founded under God. Read the Declaration of Independence, which has multiple references to God. Read about how divine providence protected George Washington and the revolutionaries. Read the United States currency that states “In God We Trust”. The Senate opens with prayer. And so many other examples exist of how important God is to this country. We believe in the freedom OF religion, not the freedom FROM religion.

  5. Anonymous on January 5th, 2010 1:30 pm

    I am so tired of hearing about how offended people get about what people say. We have the right to pledge allegiance to our country and acknowledge God. If Matt Barry is offended by any reference to God, he should move to another country. God is central to the founding of this country.

  6. IP Reader on January 5th, 2010 1:56 pm

    Until the pledge of allegiance is restored to its inclusive pre-1954 verbiage, I would like to see the Issaquah School District remove the pledge from any school activities including board meetings and classroom recitation. The pledge of allegiance is an oath of loyalty to the United States of America, a country. It is NOT an oath of allegiance to any god or religion. The words “under God” were added to the pledge during the McCarthy era when people were overzealously panicked about communism. Adding the words “under God” to the pledge was considered a method to distinguish the US from the communist/atheist state in Russia. Those two words should never have been added to the pledge.

    A pledge of loyalty to one’s country should be inclusive to everyone living in that country. There are many in the United States who do not believe in the existence of a god. Asking them to acknowledge the existence of a god as a prerequisite to pledging loyalty to their country is highly inappropriate.

  7. Descended from Apes on January 5th, 2010 2:01 pm

    George Washington and Thomas Jefferson would be considered atheists by today’s standards. Patriotism has nothing to do with religious fervor, and anyone who argues otherwise (“if the Pledge of Allegence offends you…”) doesn’t understand anything about patriotism or faith.

  8. John Patrick III on January 5th, 2010 3:30 pm

    This guy needs to get a life…or find somthing to do with it. He needs somthing to look to for guidance…maybe god? Respect your nation…or get out.

  9. John Patrick III on January 5th, 2010 3:34 pm

    Also, someone mentioned that “under god” was added in the 50’s….isnt that part of our nations history? THANK YOU Issaquah School Board and CIty council to standing up to this ignorant, selfish person.

  10. The Other Atheist on January 5th, 2010 3:34 pm

    First and foremost good for Mr. Barry. His reasoning is both sound and supported from a legal standpoint. Although I am sure many Christians find this motion annoying I find it relevant. There is no reason one can not practice their personal religion yet as a country we can operate on a secular basis (as truly intended).

    Removing the term “under god” would obviously put the original well intended text back in place. If “god” and I quote that because we all know any who defends the word in the pledge is taking a Christian stance is truly fine with the acknowledgment of an all powerful deity that watches over our country, then I propose we change it to “…one nation under allah” and see how well that flies. Of course if that version is offensive to Christians, and I am sure all hell would break loose under those circumstances, then you have a perspective of how the atheist feels about the current version.

    Mr. Barry, thank you for putting forth the effort to address this issue.

  11. Anonymous on January 5th, 2010 3:53 pm

    People like Matt Barry who have nothing better to do than nitpick about things like this do nothing but show their self-centered small-mindedness. They want nothing more than to show everyone how superior they are, or how evolved they are. Kind of like the people who belittle the young men and women who aspire to serve our country in the U.S. military, saying that they aren’t smart enough to do anything better… it’s funny how many “enlightened athiests” choose mockery to forward their agenda… just like in the elementary schoolyard at recess…

  12. Paul on January 5th, 2010 4:53 pm

    @John Patrick III – “Under god” was added in the fifties during the McCarthy era of commie-hunting. Yes, it’s part of the nation’s history, but not a period to be proud of.

    As an atheist, I personally couldn’t care less if people want to recite the pledge. I just won’t say it. And if anyone tries to tell me I’m being unpatriotic by not reciting the pledge, I’ll remind them that there is no god, and the current pledge is a fabrication of a hateful time in America’s history, when true Americans were ostracised, and in some cases driven to suicide because of the witch-hunting they were forced to endure. If they wish to “proudly” recite the words “under god”, they should remember the despicable era in which they were added, and understand what they represent. It certainly isn’t any kind of Christian value, or maybe it is.

    The Pledge is of Allegiance to the FLAG. Not to any perceived supernatural deity. And the flag represents a country that was founded, among other things, on the principle that religion and the governance of the people were, and should remain, seperate entities. Therefore, any religious overtones, be they Christian, Judaistic, Islamic or flaming-goat-on-the-hill-ist, in a meeting of gevernance is in volation of that principle. This country was not founded on “christian principles”, they were founded on humanistic principles. The preamble to the constitution reads:

    “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

    There is no mention of religion of any kind, which was a very deliberate ommission on the part of the founding fathers.

  13. Paul on January 5th, 2010 5:00 pm

    @Coward named “Anonymous” – You just, rather ham-fistedly, attempted to link Matt Barry to belittling our armed services, which is a blatant attempt at misdirection. C’mon you can do better than that.

    As an atheist myself, I take offense at any attempt to link an evidence-based rebuttal of worship of the supernatural (“self-centered small-mindedness”) to a lack of respect for the military. I have a few friends who are either currently serving, or have previously served, in the armed forces, and I wouldn’t consider any of them to be stupid.

  14. Anonymous on January 5th, 2010 6:01 pm

    God lives and loves you even if you don’t believe in Him. Glory to God on high.

  15. Laura on January 5th, 2010 6:59 pm

    “Under God” was added to the Pledge of Allegiance to differentiate our nation from the USSR which banished God and banished the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness under Stalin. Our nation is founded on the belief that all of us have those inalienable rights, ordained by God. We are acknowledging this in the Pledge of Allegiance. Anyone that does not believe in God has the freedom to leave that part out of the pledge. To be offended that others wish to include God in the pledge of allegiance is both thin skinned and an attempt to deny freedom of speech to the majority.

  16. John on January 5th, 2010 8:48 pm

    @Paul – I could not agree with you more!!! You could not have explained this more perfectly. Thank you!! Go Mr. Barry!!

  17. Richard Gates on January 6th, 2010 1:28 am

    I love America, I love God, so stop ruining it for the rest of us. Your self centered and ignorant individuals. If you dont want to recite the national anthem..then fine. You could just leave out the under god part yourself…, tough solutions! Im disgusted….Mr barry is an annoyance to our community.

  18. WinterSquashEm on January 6th, 2010 4:08 pm

    Of course there’s freedom FROM religion.

    There’s even a Freedom FROM Religion Foundation ( They help protect the separation of church and state.

  19. Anonymous on January 6th, 2010 9:10 pm

    Paul, read what Anonymous says again. It’s obvious this person holds Matt Barry in the same contempt as he does people who belittle the military. You’re guilty of redirection yourself, trying to morph words to serve your own purposes.

  20. Anonymous on January 8th, 2010 9:13 am

    What a joke and what a waste of the city councils time. He’s not required to say the pledge. There is always something that will offend someone. He needs to move on and find something better to do with his time. What is worse, offending one or offending many.

  21. Anonymous and Logical on January 8th, 2010 3:32 pm

    Anonymous at 9:13 A.M. wrote the following:

    +++++”What a joke and what a waste of the city councils time.”

    You’re right. Mindlessly chanting a bunch of words, which the councilmembers aren’t even focused on, is a waste of the council’s time.

    Oh, wait, you meant removing the pledge is a waste of time?? How so? The theism-pushing part is offensive to some of your neighbors. Why is stopping offensive actions a waste of time?

    Regardless, it wouldn’t waste a lot of time. “I move that we remove the pledge.” “I second that.” “All in favor?” “Aye.” “The motion passes unanimously.”

    There, that didn’t long at all.

    +++++”He’s not required to say the pledge.”

    Yeah. And? If a public school teacher asks all students to rise and recite the Lord’s Prayer, that’s still inappropriate, EVEN IF IT’S VOLUNTARY. If the council asks everyone to stand and celebrate their heterosexuality, that would be offensive to homosexuals, EVEN IF IT’S VOLUNTARY. Get it?

    +++++”What is worse, offending one or offending many.”

    You’d find the original pre-1954 pledge, that was said by schoolchildren during WWI and WWII, offensive? Really? Why’s that?

    Or did you mean that you’d find the removal of the pledge to be offensive? If so, a lot of people were offended when government-sponsored prayer was removed from public schools. They (incorrectly) thought they had a right to have the government push their religious beliefs on others. But the Supreme Court disagreed.

    Besides, those people could pray 24/7, all day long, if they so desired. Many of them learned that they didn’t need Big Brother to tell them when or how to pray. They can do it on their own. Ditto the pledge. You can buy a flag and do the pledge all day long. Knock yourself out. Your rights aren’t being affected at all.

    But if you need Big Brother to hold your hand and/or if you need others to see how patriotic you are, then everyone who lives in Seattle who agrees with you should immediately complain to the Seattle City Council. After all, they’re offending everyone by NOT pushing theism on everyone!! How dare they??!!

    Btw, I heard the Issaquah Park Board doesn’t start its meetings with the pledge, either. An outrage!!! Oh, and the Cemetary Board, too. And the Urban Village Commission!! And the poker club down on Front St doesn’t do it, either. Wow, you sure must get offended a lot, huh?

  22. Robert Ede on January 10th, 2010 6:59 am

    It would appear that there is no legal requirement to recite the pledge, but I would argue there are social pressues to do so.

    I was a visitor to the USA some years ago and attended a public event where people were invited to recite the pledge. As a non-US citizen, I stood politely and quitely while others recited it.

    I recall in that situation several eyes glaring at me in disgust for not swearing allegiance to a country of which I am not a citizen. I felt very intimidated by the whole experience.

    It would seem to me that there are societal links between being a Christian and a loyal American, despite the consitution being quite secular.

    I would encourage Atheists to simply modify the pledge to leaving out the words “under God” if they feel patriotically compelled make a pledge. It could be argued that they are honouring the pledge in its orginal form. As many have pointed out the “under god” bit was added in 1954 by then President Eisenhower, and are a corruption of the original text.

    Equally you could all revert to the original text, but as with the Presidential oath of office simply add, “So help me God” for those who wish to at the end.

    In fact the pledge has changed before that in 1923 so instead of saying “my flag” it was “the Flag of the United States of America.”

    There are so many reasonable compromises which could be made on both sides in this situation, however my personal experience shows that there can be a great deal of intolerance when it comes to issues of inclusiveness.

  23. Don on January 10th, 2010 11:01 am

    The idea that our country was founded as a “Christian Nation” is one of the most popular urban legends out there – and absolutely false. And those who say so are getting their history lessons from Sunday school.

    Many emigrants left religious governments behind in the old country and were fleeing religious oppression. From colonization in the 17th century up to the signing of the Constitution, the settlers went through many attempts of self government. Each colony was virtually independent and many did indeed set up religious commonwealths. Maryland’s “Act Concerning Toleration” in 1649 granted religious freedom to all Christians who believed in the trinity (this was repealed five years later). Plymouth was a Protestant commonwealth and Rhode Island was Baptist.

    All these different religious governments created much squabbling and discourse between the colonies and within each colony. In short, they found themselves back in the religious mess that some tried to escape in England; state-sponsored religion.

    It wasn’t until 1768 that Jefferson’s Statue for Religious Liberty passed and not until 1833 that Massachusetts moved toward separation of church and state as advocated by James Madison and Thomas Jefferson. So, while it may be true that religious men (most were actually Deists) wrote the constitution, their experiences tempered their ideas of what works and what doesn’t.

    The results of these experiences by our founding fathers was a Constitution the makes absolutely no mention of God. This omission of God is anything but an accident and they went to great efforts to create what Thomas Jefferson called “a wall of separation between church and state.

  24. Jeremy on January 11th, 2010 8:17 pm

    This country was NOT founded under god, i can promise you that. Just read the Treaty of Tripoli; it states thus: “As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion” This paper was singed by GEORGE WASHINGTON, the first president of the united states.

    Want more proof? Thomas Jefferson was a Deist, and in fact when he was running for president, the opposing party labeled him a “Bible Burning Atheist” Yet still he became president.

    The Second Amendment states that: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;” This statement does allow you to exercise for faith, but it also states the government cannot make ANY law at all having to do with ESTABLISHING a religion, or BANNING one.

    Besides mate, the under god part of the pledge was not added until 1954, and if you believe that the United States was founded in 1954, then you may need to hold on to your religion, because that’s all that is inside your gray matter.

  25. Paul on January 12th, 2010 2:55 pm


    “Our nation is founded on the belief that all of us have those inalienable rights, ordained by God”

    Check again; the rights granted by the Constitution/Bill of Rights make absolutely zero mention of god, only that the state make no law promoting or restricting a religion. Where do you get this “ordained by god” stuff? You made it up, or you believe it because you’ve been told it’s true? It isn’t.

    As can be seen from the several posts on this thread about it, there is a preponderance of evidence that the founding fathers explicitly kept any mention of god out of the constitution and the Bill of Rights. Where do people get this “we’re a Christian nation” thing? Must come from the same place that believes Jesus really was born on Dec. 25th on the year zero, despite all the evidence to the contrary, including evidence assembled by their own churches. it is a shame that religion breeds such blindness.

  26. Laura on January 18th, 2010 10:31 am

    Paul, Don, and others,

    Please read the Declaration of Independence. Our nation was founded on the belief that our citizens have certain inalienable rights ordained by God (our “creator”). Among them are the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Saying “One nation, under God” is both accurate and does not establish any particular religion but is the free exercise by those that wish to acknowledge from where our rights originated. The constitution is a secular document establishing our governance and is wholly separate from the declaration that established our nation.

    From the outset, Congress has opened with a prayer. We have always, from day one, aknowledged God’s hand in our nation’s creation. Thomas Jefferson believed strongly in Jesus Christ and his teachings as a prophet of God. He simply did not believe him to be God, which made him a non-standard Christian, referred to as “Deist”. Saying “under God” in our pledge of allegience does not establish a religion, it is the coming together of all religious beliefs. For those that don’t wish to say it, they do not need to.

    For the fellow that felt uncomfortable when he did not recite the pledge, I’m sorry that was poor form by those around him. Taking “God” out of the pledge would not have alleviated that situation, as it seems the group was offended that he did not take the pledge at all.

  27. Matt on January 20th, 2010 12:43 pm

    The pro-“under God” folks on this thread remind me of the following quote:

    “If it was good enough for the founding fathers, it’s good enough for me.”

    — Sarah Palin, as quoted in a 2006 Alaska gubernatorial race questionnaire after being asked whether the phrase “under God” in the pledge of allegiance is offensive. Just days after she was selected as John McCain’s running mate, the old questionnaire surfaced on political blogs across the U.S., with pundits pointing out that the Alaska Governor doesn’t seem to know her American history. The pledge of allegiance wasn’t written until 1892, and the phrase “under God” wasn’t added until the 1950s.


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