An essay about the Pledge of Allegiance
donated by Allen Hoffmeyer
I can almost see it now. Francis Bellamy, a Baptist minister, hunched over
the desk in his study writing sermon notes in a flurry of pages spouting ideas
to himself late into the night. Recalling socialist catch phrases and Christian
proverbs, he labors and labors; but then suddenly he stops. The countless ideas
of utopian societies suddenly unite in his mind to create something that will be
remembered long after his time. He grabs a fresh page and writes, "I pledge
allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands, one nation,
indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."
While I doubt the writing of the Pledge of Allegiance was that happenstance,
I donít doubt the lingering effects of such a call for unity and support of a
single nation. The pledge was the great call for those of a broken nation to
join together under one flag and call themselves one people.
The Pledge of Allegiance has undergone many changes, but one of the changes that
is the most controversial is the inclusion of the words "under God." Now that
the Pledge of Allegiance is the official mantra of the United States Government,
should the government continue to include the words "under God" in the pledge?
The Federal Appeals Court was correct when it ruled that the Pledge of
Allegiance is unconstitutional if it includes the words "under God."
The Pledge of Allegiance was not designed as a call to religious belief or
religious unity, rather it was written as a call to the nation to gather as one
people and make a better life for themselves. Bellamy, the author of the Pledge,
had this to say about the Pledge, "It began as an intensive communing with
salient points of our national history, from the Declaration of Independence
onwards; with the makings of the Constitution . . . with the meaning of the
Civil War; with the aspiration of the people..." Bellamy was only concerned with
the unification of the country as a whole. He did not wish to force his
Christian views on others who might not hold the same creeds. In fact, the words
"under God" were not added to the Pledge of Allegiance until 1954 after a
campaign by the Knights of Columbus. The campaign was largely launched due to
the political acceptance of McCarthyism at the time. The hard thing to accept
about the words "under God" is that we are not one nation under God. We come
from a variety of religious backgrounds. We all have different beliefs and
convictions and the views of one religion should not be given special treatment
by the supposed neutrality of the government on religious issues.
Another problem with the inclusion of that deceptively simple phrase comes about
because of one of the provisions of the Constitution. In the First Amendment of
the Constitution, it says, "Congress should make no law respecting an
establishment of religion..." The Annals of Congress on Saturday, August 15,
1789 record James Madison speaking of what was intended by the First Amendment.
Madison stated, "Congress should not establish a religion and enforce the legal
observation of it by law, nor compel men to worship God in any manner contrary
to their conscience, or that one sect might obtain a pre-eminence, or two
combined together, and establish a religion to which they would compel others to
conform." With the inclusion of the words "under God" the government is
compelling those who donít necessarily believe in God to believe.
There are many who feel that the inclusion of the words "under God" in the
pledge is not a violation of oneís constitutional rights. They might say that no
one is forced to say the words "under God" in the pledge, and actually they are
not required to say the pledge at all. While both of these statements are true,
they do not address the problem at hand. The question is not whether or not they
are required to pay homage to God through two words in a pledge; but whether or
not the United States government should include it in the official Pledge with
such a strong desire to separate Church and State. The constitutionality of
those words is not based on how many people say the pledge, but rather the
statement that the Government wants sent forth. The United States was not, is
not, and hopefully never will be a Christian nation. To do so would violate the
parameters that those before us had the foresight to avoid.