THE Boulder (Col.) News says that in objecting to the flag salute in the public schools, the SENTINEL has made a mountain out of a mole hill. It says that we “totally misapprehend and misinterpret the spirit of the whole matter;” and this statement it explains by saying that the salute—“We give our heads and our hearts to God and our country”—“was not intended to be taken in a narrow, technical sense, not as a declaration of conversion or religion, but as a general expression of reverence for deity and loyalty to country.”
Now this salute consists of a statement so plain and simple that it had not occurred to us that it could be taken in a “narrow, technical sense.” When an individual says he gives his heart to God, we take the expression as meaning just what it says, with no thought of anything technical about it. How would it do as a defense in a breach of promise suit, to plead that although the defendant did say that he gave his hand and heart to the complainant, this was not meant to be taken in a narrow, technical sense, but only as a general expression of esteem?
But aside from this, it should be noted that the real point involved in this matter is not the question of what was meant by the originators of this salute. It is not the question of their motives in introducing it into the schools, or of what good they thought it would accomplish. Doubtless their motives were excellent; we do not question these in the least. Nor is it probable that they themselves saw in it any confession of religious belief; at least, it is quite possible that they did not. But the question is, What did they actually do? What does the flag salute actually require, and what is its real effect?
We are quite ready to believe that the authors of this salute did not know that their gun was loaded, and did not mean to shoot anybody. “I didn’t know it was loaded” is a very common excuse; but the question is, What was the actual result? Besides this, the mere question of what was intended sinks into insignificance.
The News goes on to say that the word “God” in the salute “does not necessarily mean the God of the Bible; it may mean the god of nature, or nature itself, as some put it—even the pagan’s god, if there should be a pagan in the schools.” Well, well! How many gods do the Boulder school authorities want the children to give their hearts to? How many different gods do they believe in themselves? Do they believe that all gods are on an equality, so that the children may with equal propriety be required to give their heads and hearts to any one of them? If not, which one do they mean shall be honored by this flag salute? These are points concerning which the public may well ask for explanation.
If the salute does not mean anything definite, or if it does not mean what it says, it would better be dropped for that reason alone. And if it does mean what it says, then it is a direct invasion of the domain of conscience, whether its authors intended it as such or not.