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The History of the Pledge of Allegiance

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The Position of theinfidels.org On "under God"

 

The Pledge of Allegiance is an oath of allegiance to the United States, generally made through the US national flag. It is most often recited in public school classrooms, where it is often a morning ritual. As it now stands, the words of the Pledge are:

“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 of Allegiance was written by author and socialist Francis Bellamy for the popular children's magazine Youth's Companion in 1892. The owners of Youth's Companion approached Bellamy to write it as a way of advertising for their sales of American flags. The Pledge, as originally penned by Bellamy, read as follows:

“I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands, one nation indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

This original version was proclaimed as official by President Benjamin Harrison, and it was first recited in public schools in this form on October 12, 1892 during Columbus Day observances. The officially adopted form manifested the first wording change in the history in the history of the Pledge: the word “to” was inserted before the words “the Republic.”

The wording stayed in its original form until 1923, when several words were added in order to insure that the flag being referenced was the US flag, apparently to avoid confusion when being recited by immigrants. It was officially recognized by the United States Congress, in the form quoted below, on June 22, 1942.

“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."

Senator Homer Ferguson of Michigan picked up on a campaign by the Knights of Columbus and sponsored a bill to insert the words “under God” into the pledge, supposedly to help distinguish between the United States and the godless Communists of Russia. These words were supposedly taken from Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address and/or the US Constitution. Congress officially adoped the resulting version, shown below, on June 8, 1954.

“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."

This most recent change has sparked a fury of debate about the separation of church and state, among other things, in the years since it was adopted. Other issues include the freedom of religion, and the forced recitation by children too young to understand the words.

Objections on religious grounds began well before the words “under God” were added. The Jehovah’s Witnesses religious sect brought a number of early suits, basically asking that members not be required to recite the Pledge since it ran against their doctrine of not swearing loyalty to any power less than God. Although the Witnesses lost several cases early in, they won a major case in 1943 in West Virginia State Board of Education vs. Barnette.

Since that 1943 decision, public schools have been officially prohibited from punishing students who refused to recite the Pledge. Problems still arise because much of the administration of such issues is left up to the States. Even beyond the legal situation, a great deal of pressure, including peer pressure, can be brought to bear against a student who refuses to recite the Pledge.

Most objections were raised after the phrase "under God" was inserted. Those two words, despite their simplicity, signaled for many citizens that the United States was being transformed into an officially religious nation. The words were also viewed as a critical break in the 200-year-old policy of separation of Church and State. This change could lead us further toward theocracy, contrary to the sentiments of the nation's founders. As James Madison declared: "I have no doubt that every new example will succeed, as every past one has done, in showing that religion & Govt will both exist in greater purity, the less they are mixed together."

Even if a theocracy is not imminent, the rewording of the pledge is divisive. It gives the religious an excuse to qualify their pledge, so that their loyalty is dependent on the policies of the nation being in accord with "God's will," at least according to their perceptions. Many atheists, on the other hand, argue that as there is no God, the nation "under God" does not exist; the Pledge of Allegiance thus becomes null and void for them.

In the opinion of the staff of theinfidels.org, this lapse of consistency in their own rules is totally unacceptable, and thus we have joined the campaign to have the Pledge returned to its original and inoffensive version.

 
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