The Pledge can't teach citizenship on its own

I am surprised at your patriotism in "Standing up for the pledge" (Oct. 24, editorial page). The Pledge of Allegiance is coercive - especially in classes of 6- to 10-year-old children. I find your assumption to be that having students say "under God" is okay, because all major religions agree on God's existence. But freedom of religion includes freedom from religion.

If we agree not to lead such pledges until students are old enough to understand both the words and their constitutional right to not participate, I have no problem with the pledge. We fail our students in thinking that the pledge is all we need to foster democracy. Patriotism that merely waves flags or applies bumper stickers is shallow, indeed. Students need to learn that being an American means showing up for jury duty, voting, serving on school committees, writing congressmen, even writing letters to the editor. Pledging allegiance is something sheep can do; we must teach our students to not just wave the flag,but to become engaged citizens.

John F. Ranta Princeton, Mass.

Beware the 'arrogance of exclusionism'

I was dismayed to read the story of a football stadium being led in a Christian prayer prior to each game "Praying in public: Part of coping, or defiant act?" (Oct. 25). After 40 years of active ministry in the Christian church, I have come to some conclusions about the arrogance of exclusionism. The thing most of the Christian world is condemning in Osama bin Laden is his belief that God has only one prophet - in spite of the fact that this Creator asks inclusion and love of all believers. When the Western world is struggling against terrorism based on fanaticism, we have a larger responsibility than ever to model a God concept that includes all - and to consider that many attending those football games may not be Christian.

Jim Elliot Halfmoon Bay, B.C.

Regarding "Praying in public: Part of coping, or defiant act?": I couldn't agree more with Barry Lynn's statement that patriotism and religion are separate things, and that in times of crisis, protecting the Constitution is important. Those who argue in favor of "legalizing prayer" should remember that nowhere in the US is prayer "illegal." There are no restrictions on individual prayer - only on organized public prayer.

Elizabeth Wood Seaford, N.Y.

Don't ignore secularism

I object to some of the views espoused in "The New Normal" (Oct. 11) - ideas like " 'America is a nation with the soul of a church' " and " 'We're not as secular ... as we thought.' " One third of us are pretty secular. We can get through these difficult times by relying on each other and our healthy sense of national community, and by nurturing a humanist concern for all the world's people - including non-Americans, Muslims, and even atheists.

Daniel Consolatore Baltimore

Make military service mandatory again

I read with interest your Oct. l8 article "Call up of Reserves leaves gaps in many police forces," and your editorial, "Safer Harbors." Obviously, we need more homeland security. It's time to consider requiring high school graduates to sign up for homeland-defense service. The military would train participants and oversee patrolling of nuclear power plants, schools, reservoirs, power lines, train stations, and other possible terrorist targets. Service, while mandatory, could be part time, depending on the nation's needs. To prevent more terrorist acts, we need more eyes and ears.

Paul Feiner Greenburgh, N.Y.

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