The following is tesitmony that was given by the Nebraska Secular Associates prior to the formation of the Secular Coalition for Nebraska.
March 18, 2013
Testimony on LB540 by Mike Lewis, Chair, Nebraska Secular Advocates
Good afternoon, senators. My name is Mike Lewis, I live in Lincoln, and I’m here today as the chairman of a new statewide grassroots group called the Nebraska Secular Advocates. We represent atheists, agnostics, and other nonreligious Nebraskans, and we also welcome the participation of religious Nebraskans who share our commitment to the separation of church and state.
We support LB540, and thank Senator Chambers for introducing it. We think it is inappropriate that the State Board of Education has required public schools to set aside time for the Pledge of Allegiance. People who recite the pledge must affirm the existence of God. That’s a religious idea that does not belong in a public school.
We understand, and appreciate, that students and teachers can opt out of the pledge. However, the act of not participating can create discomfort and needlessly set students and teachers apart, making them seem unpatriotic. That’s unfortunate, because nonreligious Americans are patriotic. Most of us enjoy singing the national anthem, showing respect for the flag, and participating in other activities that demonstrate love of country. Many atheists and agnostics serve in the armed forces, the diplomatic corps, and the civil service. We are as proud to be Americans as our fellow citizens who are religious.
A year ago I attended the Reason Rally on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., along with about 20,000 other nonreligious Americans. One of the most poignant, emotional moments of the day was when a retired Army colonel led us in the Pledge of Allegiance. We recited it as Americans recited it during World War II, when our soldiers were helping free Europe from fascist tyranny. At that time, Americans could truly make that expression of patriotism as one nation, indivisible. Unfortunately, when Congress added the words “under God” to the pledge in 1954, they divided this nation. Those who believe in a monotheistic God can continue to say the pledge with a clear conscience. Those who don’t believe, can’t.
So long as the Pledge of Allegiance makes reference to God, we cannot support setting aside time for it in the public schools. We ask the Legislature to pass LB540.