Thursday, June 17, 2010

The Pledge of Allegiance

Constitution Study, June 17, 2010
The Pledge of Allegiance

"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 is a traditional oath of loyalty to the United States of America. It was written in 1892 by Francis Bellamy, a Baptist minister and socialist.

In the United States, the Pledge of Allegiance is recited on many formal occasions, including at the beginning of the school day, and the opening of certain kinds of meetings. When the Pledge is recited, civilians face the Flag and place their right hands over their hearts. Men remove any non-religious headdress and hold it in the right hand. Military personnel in uniform remain silent and salute the flag. Under many public circumstances, in a display of patriotism, the Pledge will be followed with the singing of "America the Beautiful" and the National Anthem, "The Star Spangled Banner".

The phrase "under God" was added in 1954, by a bill signed into law by President Eisenhower on June 14, 1954 (Flag Day), largely driven by the lobbying of the Knights of Columbus, as a means of differentiating America from the "godless" Communists of the USSR.

Bellamy wrote the Pledge in the hopes that it would create a sense of nationalism in America, and convince her to adopt the principles of socialism, a concept akin to his cousin’s (Edward Bellamy) writings regarding utopianism.

The original "Pledge of Allegiance" was published in the September 8 issue of the popular children's magazine The Youth's Companion as part of the National Public-School Celebration of Columbus Day, a celebration of the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus's discovery of America. The event was conceived and promoted by James B. Upham, a marketer for the magazine, in a campaign to encourage patriotism and the display of the American flag in public schools.

Bellamy's original Pledge read as follows:

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

President Benjamin Harrison’s proclamation ensured the Pledge was first used in public schools on October 12, 1892, during Columbus Day observances. Bellamy hoped the pledge would involve children across the country in a large demonstration of national solidarity and nationalism.

In 1923 the National Flag Conference called for the words "my Flag" to be changed to "the Flag of the United States", for the benefit of new immigrants. The words "of America" were added a year later. The United States Congress officially recognized the Pledge as the official national pledge on June 22, 1942.

The Pledge stirred controversy, and violence, when in the 1940 the Supreme Court decision, in Minersville School District v. Gobitis, it was ruled that students in public schools could be compelled to swear the Pledge. The ruling intended to ensure the Pledge was recited, even though Jehovah's Witnesses like the defendants in that case who considered the flag salute to be idolatry. A rash of mob violence and intimidation against Jehovah's Witnesses followed the ruling. In 1943 the Supreme Court reversed its decision, ruling in West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette that "compulsory unification of opinion" violated the First Amendment.

The right hand over the heart was not the original salute to the flag. Though some schools used a “right hand, palm down, across the chest” salute, the salute that Bellamy created for the Pledge, adopted in 1892, and known as the Bellamy salute, started with the hand outstretched toward the flag, palm down, and ended with the palm up. The similarity between the Bellamy salute and the Nazi salute decades later encouraged President Franklin D. Roosevelt to institute the hand-over-the-heart gesture as the salute to be rendered by civilians during the Pledge of Allegiance and the national anthem in the United States, instead of the Bellamy salute. Removal of the Bellamy salute occurred on December 22, 1942, when Congress amended the Flag Code language first passed into law on June 22, 1942.

The words "under God" being added to the Pledge was initiated by Louis A. Bowman, a Chaplain of the Illinois Society of the Sons of the American Revolution. At a meeting on February 12, 1948 of the organization, Lincoln's Birthday, Bowman led the Society in swearing the Pledge with the two words added, "under God." Bowman repeated his revised version of the Pledge at other meetings as well.

In 1951, the Knights of Columbus, also began including the words "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance. On April 30, 1951, in New York City, the Board of Directors of the Knights of Columbus adopted a resolution to amend the text of their Pledge of Allegiance to include the words "under God" after the words "one nation." Over the next two years, the idea spread throughout Knights of Columbus organizations nationwide. On August 21, 1952, the Supreme Council of the Knights of Columbus at its annual meeting adopted a resolution urging that the change be made universal. Copies of their resolution resolution were sent to the President, the Vice President (as Presiding Officer of the Senate) and the Speaker of the House of Representatives. Early attempts to change the Pledge nationally failed.

In 1952, Holger Christian Langmack wrote a letter to President Truman suggesting the inclusion of "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance. Mr. Langmack was a Danish philosopher and educator who came to America in 1911. He was one of the originators of the Prayer Breakfast and a religious leader in Washington, D.C. President Truman met with him along with several others to discuss the inclusion of "under God". At the suggestion of a correspondent, Representative Louis C. Rabaut of Michigan sponsored a resolution to add the words "under God" to the Pledge in 1953, but the resolution failed.

Prior to February 1954, no attempt to get the Pledge officially amended succeeded. The final successful push came from George MacPherson Docherty. After George MacPherson Docherty delivered a sermon based on the Gettysburg Address titled "A New Birth of Freedom," in which he argued that the nation's might lay not in arms but its spirit and higher purpose, President Eisenhower, though raised a Jehovah's Witness, but had been baptized a Presbyterian just a year before, responded enthusiastically to Docherty in a conversation following the service. Eisenhower acted on his suggestion the next day and on February 8, 1954, Rep. Charles Oakman (R-Mich.), introduced a bill to that effect. Congress passed the necessary legislation and Eisenhower signed the bill into law on Flag Day, June 14, 1954. The phrase "under God" was incorporated into the Pledge of Allegiance June 14, 1954, by a Joint Resolution of Congress amending §7 of the Flag Code enacted in 1942.

Key Words:

Allegiance: Loyalty to a person, cause, nation, etc.

Communism: Theoretical economic system characterized by collective ownership of property and the organization of labor for the common advantage of all members.

Communist: Member of a movement or political party that advocates communism.

Idolatry: Worship of idols.

Loyalty: A feeling or attitude of devoted attachment or affection.
Nationalism: Devotion to one’s nation, love of one’s government.

Oath: A solemn formal declaration or promise, often calling on God. Something declared or promised.

Patriotism: Love of and devotion to one’s country.

Socialism: The stage in Marxist theory between Capitalism and Communism.

Socialist: An advocate of the theory of social organization in which the means of producing and distributing goods is owned collectively or by a centralized government that often plans and controls the economy.

Utopianism: Social theory of principles of an ideally perfect place in its social, political, and moral aspects.

Douglas V. Gibbs

Special Thanks to for letting us use their classroom:

Faith Armory, 27498 Enterprise Cir. W. #2, Temecula, CA

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