Between 1924 and 1954, the Pledge of Allegiance was worded:
In 1954, during the McCarthy era and communism scare, Congress passed a bill, which was signed into law, to add the words "under God." The current Pledge reads:
The Pledge is recited, on average, tens of millions of times a day -- largely by students in schools across America.
On 2002-JUN-26, a three judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals voted 2 to 1 to declare the Pledge unconstitutional because of the addition of the phrase "under God." This decision only affects the states of AK, AZ, CA, HI, ID, MT, NV, OR and WA. The ruling stating that "the text of the official Pledge, codified in federal law, impermissibly takes a position with respect to the purely religious question of the existence and identity of God."
The U.S. Supreme Court overturned the Circut Court of Appeals reading. They did not rule on the basis of the Pledge violating the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Rather, they ruled that the plaintiff Michael Newdow did not have primary custody of his daughter and thus did not have standing to take the case to the federal court system.
It is interesting to note that this decision happened to occur one day after the 40th anniversary of the Engel v. Vitale decision by the U.S. Supreme Court, which declared unconstitutional the inclusion of state-sponsored school prayer as a part of instruction in public schools. The Texas Justice Foundation had declared that anniversary a day of mourning. 1,2
History of the Pledge of Allegiance:
The Pledge was originally written in 1892-AUG by Francis Bellamy (1855 - 1931). He was an American, a Baptist minister, and an active Socialist. He included some of the concepts of his first cousin, Edward Bellamy, who wrote a number of socialist utopian novels, such as Looking Backward (1888) and Equality (1897). In its original form, it read:
It was first published in a children's magazine Youth's Companion, in 1892 to celebrate the 400th anniversary of Columbus' arrival in the Americas. 4 The word "to" was added before "the Republic" in 1892-OCT. He considered including the word "equality" in the pledge, but decided against it because he knew that many Americans at the time were opposed to equality for women and African-Americans. Opposition to equality continues today; a sizeable minority of American adults remain opposed to equal rights for women, gays and lesbians, and transsexuals.
By 1924, the "National Flag Conference, under the leadership of the American Legion and the Daughters of the American Revolution, changed the Pledge's words, 'my Flag,' to 'the Flag of the United States of America.' Francis Bellamy disliked this change, but his protest was ignored." 3
Most Jehovah's Witness children refuse to acknowledge the flag. In 1940, the U.S. Supreme Court denied children the right of freedom of speech. The court ruled that school boards could compel their students to recite the Pledge. The court reversed itself three years later. 4
In 1953, the Roman Catholic men's group, the Knights of Columbus mounted a campaign to add the words "under God" to the Pledge. The nation was suffering through the height of the cold war, and the McCarthy communist witch hunt. Partly in reaction to these factors, a reported 15 resolutions were initiated in Congress to change the pledge. They got nowhere until Rev. George Docherty (1911 - 2008) preached a sermon that was attended by President Eisenhower and the national press corps on 1954-FEB-7. His sermon said in part:
"Apart from the mention of the phrase 'the United States of America,' it could be the pledge of any republic. In fact, I could hear little Muscovites repeat a similar pledge to their hammer-and-sickle flag in Moscow."
After the service, President Eisenhower said that he agreed with the sermon. In the following weeks, the news spread, and public opinion grew. Three days later, Senator Homer Ferguson, (R-MI), sponsored a bill to add God to the Pledge. It was approved as a joint resolution 1954-JUN-8. It was signed into law on Flag Day, JUN-14. President Eisenhower said at the time:
"From this day forward, the millions of our schoolchildren will daily proclaim in every city and town, every village and rural schoolhouse, the dedication of our nation and our people to the Almighty." 4
With the addition of "under God" to the Pledge, it became both "a patriotic oath and a public prayer...Bellamy's granddaughter said he also would have resented this second change." 3
The change was partly motivated by a desire to differentiate between communism, which promotes Atheism, and Western capitalistic democracies, which were at least nominally Christian. The phrase "Atheistic Communists" has been repeated so many times that the public has linked Atheism with communism; the two are often considered synonymous. Many consider Atheism as unpatriotic and "un-American" as communism.
Most communists, worldwide, are Atheists. But, in North America, the reverse is not true; most Atheists are non-communists. Although there are probably many Atheist and Humanist legislators at the federal and state levels, few if any are willing to reveal their beliefs, because of the intense prejudice against persons holding these belief systems.
The U.S. Supreme Court declined to review this change to the Pledge. The Court has commented in passing on the motto saying that:
"[o]ur previous opinions have considered in dicta the motto and the pledge [of allegiance], characterizing them as consistent with the proposition that government may not communicate an endorsement of religious belief." [Allegheny, 492 U.S.]
|Some pro-life groups have promoted the addition of a suffix to the
existing Pledge so that it would read: ".....liberty
and justice for all, born and unborn."|
|Some political liberals have suggested the addition of the word "equality,"
so that the Pledge would read: "with equality,
liberty and justice for all." This amendment probably has no chance
of acceptance, until the concepts of equal treatment for
women, homosexuals, bisexuals, and
transsexuals are more fully
accepted by the public|
|A visitor to this web site, who prefers to remain anonymous, suggested a
further change: that the conclusion of the Pledge be revised to read:
"working towards the goals of equality of opportunity,
liberty and justice for all." He reasoned that:|
The First Amendment Center and the American Journalism Review released the results of a poll on 2003-AUG-1. They found that:
|68% of adults believe that teachers who include "one nation under
God" in the Pledge of Allegiance were not violating the
principle of separation of church and state.|
|36% said that they were.|
|73% of respondents said that the pledge, including the "under God"
phrase is "primarily a statement related to the American political
|18% said that it was primarily a religious statement.|
N = 1,000. margin of error is ±3.1 percentage points. 5
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Copyright © 2002 to 2010 by Ontario Consultants on Religious
Originally written: 2002-JUN-26
Latest update: 2010-FEB-07
Author: B.A. Robinson
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