Equally importantly, the words "under God" qualify what might otherwise be mistaken for a totalitarian demand upon the soul of the citizen. The republics of Greece and Rome were not founded on the inherent equality of all human beings. Far from it. For Aristotle, as for most of the classical world, what was self-evident was inequality and subjection: "Some men are by nature free, and others slaves, and that for these latter, slavery is both expedient and right. ... Neither must we suppose that any of the citizens belongs to himself, for they all belong to the state." Totalitarian states persecute religions because they recognize that religion competes for the loyalties of citizens. In our republic, by contrast, the claims of the state are made under God, who guarantees our rights.
Religious liberty is one of those rights. You are free to understand and worship Him however you choose. You are free to believe He does not exist and come up with alternate theories for why rights are unalienable. But you are not free to rewrite the history of how these rights came to be yours. That is what is at stake in the battle of the pledge.
Maggie Gallagher is a nationally syndicated columnist, a leading voice in the new marriage movement and co-author of The Case for Marriage: Why Married People Are Happier, Healthier, and Better Off Financially.