Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Becoming Canadian

 
Jeffrey Shallit, a long time opponent of intelligent design creationism, is an American citizen living in Canada. Why doesn't he become a Canadian citizen?
[Towards a Canadian Republic]
My answer has always been the same: I'll seriously consider becoming a citizen when Canada removes one citizenship requirement: that I swear allegiance to "Her Majesty the Queen Elizabeth the Second, Queen of Canada, her Heirs and Successors".

As an American who is proud of the republican tradition (small "r" in "republican", please), the citizenship requirement that one swear allegiance to a person seems unappealingly feudal to me. Paul McCartney famously observed that the current Queen is a pretty nice girl, but that doesn't mean I want to swear allegiance to her.
It seems like an innocent enough anachronism to me.

But the more important question is how does Professor Shallit feel about pledging allegiance to a "thing" as in ....
I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic, for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

26 comments :

  1. Hey, Larry, if you're going to comment about my blog post the least you could do is send me a heads-up!

    Anyway, about the Pledge: I find it a rather repulsive expression of nationalism and ceremonial Deism. I'm glad Canada doesn't have such a tradition (although there was some noise about adding a pledge last year).

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  2. Jeffrey Shallit says,

    Hey, Larry, if you're going to comment about my blog post the least you could do is send me a heads-up!

    Sorry 'bout that. I meant to leave a comment on your blog but I got distracted.

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  3. As an American living in the US, I can tell you how I feel about the pledge: I refuse to do it. I also do not put my hand over my heart when the flag goes by.

    I do get some dirty looks, too.

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  4. Another couple of points:

    As far as I know, reciting the Pledge is not a requirement of American citizenship.

    Also, I think the "tu quoque" defense is pretty weak, but it is typically Canadian. Why can't we discuss whether the "allegiance" requirement of Canadian citizenship is worthwhile, without bringing in what you perceive as a similar shortcoming in the US?

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  5. I believe that there has been a US Supreme Court decision that says that it cannot be required by schools that a student pledge allegiance to the flag. If I recall correctly, this was because some particular religious group (the Jehovah's Witnesses, perhaps) thought of it as idolatry and refused to do it.

    I believe also that some people elected to parliament in the UK have refused to take the required oath to the Queen. (Republicans of some sort, perhaps Irish nationalists from Northern Ireland.)

    Any corrections to my misunderstandings would be appreciated.

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  6. I'm an American, but I never say the pledge.

    The pledge was written by a writer for a boy's magazine in the late 19th century as a device to boost readership. It has nothing to do with our history.

    I don't pledge allegiance to things, and flags are just things.

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  7. Wikipedia says:
    In 1940 the Supreme Court, in deciding the case of Minersville School District v. Gobitis, ruled that students in public schools could be compelled to recite the Pledge, even Jehovah's Witnesses like the Gobitises, who considered the flag salute to be idolatry. In the wake of this ruling, there was a rash of mob violence and intimidation against Jehovah's Witnesses. In 1943 the Supreme Court reversed its decision, ruling in West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette that "compulsory unification of opinion" violated the First Amendment.

    There is no mention of the pledge as a requirement for citizenship. Since I am a U.S. citizen by birth, I am not familiar with the requirements for immigrants to qualify for citizenship.

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  8. Pledge, schmedge. It's the poutine that would put me off Candadian citzenship.

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  9. U.S. Citizenship Naturalization Requirements
    The basic requirements for naturalization include:

    * You must be a lawful permanent resident;
    * Age (you must be at least 18 years old);
    * Time as Permanent Resident: You must have been residing in the US as a permanent resident for at least the last five years (three if married to a US citizen);
    * Continuous Residence: You must not have disrupted your continuous residence in the US for any of the last five years;
    * Physical Presence in the USA: You must have been physically present for at least half of the five year period (three if married to a US citizen);
    * Time as Resident in District or State;
    * No Disqualifying Criminal Record;
    * English Language Proficiency;
    * Knowledge of Civics (American History and Government); and
    * Belief in the principles of the U.S. Constitution and a willingness to take an oath of loyalty to the United States which includes swearing that you will give up prior allegiances to other countries; that you are willing to support and defend the Constitution and laws of the USA and serve the country when required by bearing arms or performing noncombatant services in the military (some exceptions are made for conscientious objectors) and a willingness to perform work of national importance under civilian direction.


    No mention of the pledge of allegiance. I don't know the details of this "oath of loyalty."

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  10. Oath of citizenship (United States)
    I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen; that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by law; that I will perform noncombatant service in the Armed Forces of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform work of national importance under civilian direction when required by the law; and that I take this obligation freely without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; so help me God.

    Bold - the line "so help me God" is optional, and sometimes the lines "that I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by law; that I will perform non-combatant service in the Armed Forces of the United States when required by law" are omitted as well, if the prospective citizen can prove such commitments are in violation with his or her religion.

    The Oath of Citizenship is not a federal law. Technically, any oath is legal, as long as it meets the "five principles" mandated by the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1953. These principles are:

    * allegiance to the United States Constitution,
    * renunciation of allegiance to any foreign country or leader to which the immigrant has had previous allegiances to,
    * defense of the Constitution against enemies "foreign and domestic"
    * promise to serve in the United States Armed Forces when required by law (either combat or non-combat)
    * promise to perform civilian duties of "national importance" when required by law

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  11. Nobody was claiming that you have to recite the pledge of allegiance in order to become a US citizen.

    There are two issues that Jeffrey raised. The first is whether new Canadian citizens should have to swear allegiance to the Queen. This issue is in the news because the oath is being challenged in the Supreme Court [Swearing oath of allegiance taken to court].

    In my opinion, this ranks with the frivolity of trying to tremove "In God We Trust" from American coins. It's a throwback to ancient times. We've gone far beyond the point where swearing allegiance to the Queen and her heirs has any meaning. Nevertheless, if there's a way to get rid of it without starting a major row, I'm all in favour as long as we don't have to swear allegiance to Stephen Harper [see Oath of Allegiance].

    It's just not at the top of my list of important things to do.

    The second issue is whether an American-type republic is a better form of government than a British-type constitutional monarchy. I think this is part of what Jeffrey wanted to debate. I'm strongly in favour of the constitutional monarchy over the American form of government. I'm less adamant about other options, especially those where a President is not elected by popular vote and has no powers (e.g., Israel). Those look okay to me.

    I like any system where the Head of State is separated from the position of CEO and where the CEO is directly responsible to the legislature (e.g., a Prime Minister). I don't like systems where the CEO can prosecute a war over the objections of the legislature.

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  12. @TomS - in the UK pledging allegiance to the Queen is not necessary to become an MP but it is necessary to use the House of Commons. Sinn Fein MPs refuse to take the pledge and therefore cannot vote in the Commons. See this BBC report.

    Jeremy Henty

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  13. OK, so you prefer a parliamentary system. I don't see that a monarchy is an essential ingredient of that.

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  14. I haven't been in a "Pledge of Allegiance" situation since high school. It seems as though, in Ohio at least, it's really just a public school thing.

    In high school, I would say the pledge, but I would omit the phrase "under God." I just stayed silent when everyone else said it. I suppose I could have refused to say the pledge altogether, but my refusal to repeat "under God" caused me enough torment from my mostly-Catholic peers.

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  15. Gentlemen - Interesting & informative thread. As a "born in the U.S.A." citizen, I've always thought the pledge was rather silly, especially constant repetition (What, I thought about changing/changed my mind since the last time?)
    Bush's "unitary executive" b.s. has gone way too far in shredding the U.S. constitution, which I DO have loyalty to, even though it is a "thing".
    I also see some advantages of a parliamentary system over what we have in the U.S., but as noted, this doesn't require a monarchy.

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  16. I attended public school kindergarten in 1952/53, then catholic schools for grades 1 - 12. "Under god" was added to the pledge in 1954, and at the time I thought it was just the "catholic" version (lol).
    BTW & OT, the catholic schools I attended did a mostly-excellent job of teaching me to use my brain & think for myself - which started my skepticism in the early grades an eventually resulted in my atheism!

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  17. So; is eating poutine actually required for Canadian citizenship?

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  18. What is very bizarre is to attend a Baptist church function where three pledges are said: one to the flag of the United States, one to the Christian Flag, and one the Bible.

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  19. "We've gone far beyond the point where swearing allegiance to the Queen and her heirs has any meaning."

    Actually, it does, constitutionally, as the Crown is still the 'person' that stands for the country itself. It has the great practical utility that the existence of the Crown and its embodiment in the monarchy denies to politicians the top position in the hierarchy of the state. No matter how exalted in his own mind Tony Blair might have been or Stephen Harper might be, both have to take at best second place to the monarch or her representative.

    On CNN's sunday morning press navel-gazing show (hosted by Howard Kurtz if memory serves), they were asking why Tony Blair gets a rougher ride from the British press than George W Bush gets from the American. IMO, part of the reason is that Tony Blair doesn't carry any of the significance of the state. He has no anthem, no great seal. He isn't tops in precedence at state occasions. He is merely the head of Her Majesty's government.

    One could institute a ceremonial presidency, but those don't carry the weight of tradition and history that links the monarchy with the country and have a harder time acting as a counter-balance to the ego-inflating tendencies of being head of government.

    I should add that another reason Tony Blair gets a rougher ride from his press than Bush does from the American is that because a prime minister in a parliamentary system has to expose himself to criticism, often highly partisan and vituperative, in the House, there is no general principle that the PM must be treated with any particular respect.

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  20. Mike in Ottawa says,

    On CNN's sunday morning press navel-gazing show (hosted by Howard Kurtz if memory serves), they were asking why Tony Blair gets a rougher ride from the British press than George W Bush gets from the American. IMO, part of the reason is that Tony Blair doesn't carry any of the significance of the state. He has no anthem, no great seal. He isn't tops in precedence at state occasions. He is merely the head of Her Majesty's government.

    The show was Reliable Sources—it's one of my favorite shows.

    I think you're right about the difference between criticizing Blair and Bush. Criticism of Bush gets all mixed up with criticism of the country because in addition to being CEO he is also Head of State and Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces. That confusion doesn't happen in a parliamentary system with a merely symbolic head of state. It's one of the reasons I don't like the American system.

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  21. Nothing but weakness here.

    Regardless of the exact wording of the pledge of allegiance exact phrasing it sounds like the posters here would stand for nothing and sit for all things. very weak.

    At the very least I ask my children, when the flag goes by at a parade to remember and Honor the fact that the United States was the first truly FREE country.

    I am also grateful that the early founders of our country were of stronger constitution than J Shallit. I can't imagine he has the strength to lead or guide anything or anybody.

    Go Canada...

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  22. leo says,

    At the very least I ask my children, when the flag goes by at a parade to remember and Honor the fact that the United States was the first truly FREE country.

    What do you tell them when the flag of Switzerland goes by?

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  23. It hasn't been in a parade lately but I would Respect the flag and origins. It is symbolic for the countryman.

    I actually found this blog because I am Sergant At Arms for an organization that will be host to members of the US and Canada.
    I was looking for words to say to my fellow countryman to ease any concern they have in joining Canadians to express the Canadian pledge.

    Something like "please join me in honoring our friends from the North in honoring their country by reciting the Candadian pledge with them.

    Imagine landing at this blog trying to find inspirational, patriotic words.
    I think thats called irony....

    hahaha
    Ohhh Canada......
    May you Mothers give birth to strong children.....

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  24. leo says,

    It hasn't been in a parade lately but I would Respect the flag and origins. It is symbolic for the countryman.

    Each to his own. When the Swiss flag goes by I tell my chidren that Switzerland was the first free country in the moden era and point out that the Swiss were living in a democracy for more than 100 years before the American revolution.

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  25. Hi Larry,
    ...I yield to your superior knowledge of historical affairs.

    I am sure that in a battle of wits you have few challengers.

    The Socratic question you posed to J. Shallit on how he might feel taking a pledge to a flag and his response as it being ceremonial deism caught my eye.

    Is that not the general makeup of the human condition?

    Symbology and Mythology...

    I found it fascinating that you posted a tree the other day on your blog. I was thinking you were being called to an ancient path.
    The Sumerians one of the earliest civilizations, there word for ‘grapevine’ means ‘tree’ and ‘life’.
    The Buddha achieved Nirvana under a sacred fig 2,500 years ago.
    Hindu’s and Buddhist’s both venerate the sacred fig.
    The worship of the oak tree or god appears to have been universal by all peoples of ancient Europe.
    Greek and Italians associated the tree with there highest god, Zeus or Jupiter, the Divinity of the Sky, the Rain, and the Thunder. Possibly one of the oldest and most famous sanctuaries in Greece was that of Dodona, where Zeus was revered in the Oracular Oak.
    To the Celts, or Druids, there worship was conducted in oak groves . The Celtic conquerors, who settled Asia in the third century B.C. appear to have carried with them the worship of the oak to their new home. In the heart of Asia Minor, the Galatians’ senate met in a place which bore the Celtic name that translates as, “the sacred oak grove” or “the temple of the oak”.
    The Hebrew bible, sacred text to Christians, Jews, and Muslims uses at the beginning, a story regarding the tree of life, in the book of genesis and again at the end, in the book of revelations.

    An ancient practice continued to this day...people still hang ribbons and things in honor and memory of loved ones from a tree. Hmmm...what calls on them to do that?

    As for a flag or ribbon....
    "I have made a marvelous discovery. I have found men are willing to die for ribbons." -- Napoleon Bonaparte, circa 1807
    Imagine that......

    As for me, I'm with the tree... perhaps it's because that some trees seem larger than life,
    as the tallest, and oldest living things, that occupy are natural landscape.

    As such they symbolize endurance, fertility, growth, vitality, and even eternal life.
    It would seem that in many ways mankind in all its mythology and symbolism has treasured them.

    my question would be how do you feel about the tree?

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  26. It's been a while since anyone posted here. I am researching how I can avoid the part of Oath of Allegiance that states "I will bear arms on the behalf of United States". I would not do it on the behalf of any country or group, including the one I am a citizen of by birth. It contradicts my spiritual beliefs. No success so far. But as for the question if it is requirement for US citizenship, IT IS A REQUIREMENT. Open the N-400 application form, which you can find on http://www.uscis.gov/files/form/N-400.pdf . Part 14, Oath of Allegiance spells it out very clearly.

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