The U.S. Pledge of Allegiance
Between 1924 and 1954, the Pledge of Allegiance was worded:
"I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to
the Republic for which it stands; one nation, indivisible, with liberty and
justice for all."
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:
"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."
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:
"I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic
for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for
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,
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,
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
"[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.]
Suggested future changes to the Pledge:
Various groups and individuals have suggested additional changes to the
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:|
||People are not equal; they differ greatly in ability, knowledge,
talents, etc. They hold different religions, political philosophies, and
other beliefs. It is not equality but equality of opportunity that we should reach for.
Some of the original American colonies really only provided liberty and
justice for white, male, heterosexual, Christian landowners. Over time, the
gender, religion and land-owning status restrictions were dropped. Gender
restrictions are gradually being eliminated. Special rights for
heterosexuals will be the next to fall. Even if these trends go through
to completion over the next decade, there will still be certain minorities
that will be still discriminated against. Thus, the country has not attained
"equality of opportunity, liberty and justice for all"
We should recognize that we are only "working
towards" these goals.
Public opinion poll (2003):
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 ~+mn~3.1 percentage points. 5
Fred Jackson and Jody Brown, "In Remembrance of School Prayer: ACLU
Attributes Notion of Effective Prayer to 'Radical Religious Right',"
ChristianWebSite.com, 2002-JUN-25, at:
http://headlines.agapepress.org/ (This was only a
The Texas Justice Foundation is a conservative group which "provides
free legal representation in landmark cases in protect individual rights,
limit government to its appropriate role, and promote a better business
climate for job growth in Texas." Their web site is at:
John W. Baer, "The Pledge of Allegiance: A short history,"
Larry Witham, "If it says 'God,' so be it," Washington Times,
"Survey: Majority of Americans OK With Ten Commandments, Pledge in
Public," Religion News Service, 2003-AUG-5, at:
How you got here:
Copyright © 2002 to 2010 by Ontario Consultants on Religious
Originally written: 2002-JUN-26
Latest update: 2010-FEB-07
Author: B.A. Robinson