The Pledge of Allegiance Controversy

When someone says, “We should look that up,” when they are trying to come up with an accurate fact, I take it to heart. This is why I am sitting in my “spot” under a fuzzy blanket studying about the history of the pledge allegiance to the American flag.

It’s Friday evening.

I am a mom.

I have a cranky toddler.

Thus, I research.

Over the years, the pledge of allegiance has become somewhat controversial as private citizens have filed law suit after law suit to have the practice removed from public schools, or at the very least, remove the phrase “Under God” from the pledge. But here’s the real scoop:

The pledge of allegiance is rather young compared to the history of our great nation, only about 123 years old. On September 18, 1892, a youth magazine titled “The Youth’s Companion” published a pledge written by American and Christian Socialist, Francis Bellamy.

Yes. Socialist (it isn’t as scary as you think!).

Francis was born in Mount Morris, New York and raised by a devout Baptist family. Bellamy attended college in Rochester and became a Baptist minister who influenced the vestiges of The Second Great Awakening.

Later in life, it was his hope that The Youth Companion, who had launched a campaign to sell American flags with each subscription, would be able to bring a flag to each school across the nation. With the World’s Columbian Exhibition approaching, a flag salute was proposed as part of the program for a Columbus Day celebration. Francis wrote the pledge, and the original words were 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"

It is important to note that Francis was a staunch supporter of the absolute separation of Church and State, and thus the reason he never included the words “Under God” in his writing. It wasn’t until 1954 that, in response to the Communist threat of the times, President Dwight D. Eisenhower asks Congress to add "under God" to the pledge. Congress adds the phrase.

That isn’t all that changed about the pledge. After the pledge was published and children across the nation began to recite it to start their days in school, they were taught to salute it:

    At a signal from the Principal the pupils, in ordered ranks, hands to the side, face the Flag. Another signal is given; every pupil gives the flag the military salute — right hand lifted, palm downward, to a line with the forehead and close to it. Standing thus, all repeat together, slowly, "I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands; one Nation indivisible, with Liberty and Justice for all." At the words, "to my Flag," the right hand is extended gracefully, palm upward, toward the Flag, and remains in this gesture till the end of the affirmation; whereupon all hands immediately drop to the side.

    The Youth's Companion, 1892

By WWII, it became obvious that the pledge salute resembled the Nazi salute and the requirements were changed. Now, people would face the flag and keep their right hand over their heart throughout the recitation.

Now, some people may believe that the government has forbid modern-day students from saying the pledge of allegiance in public schools, and I can’t blame people for being led to believe such things. Over the years, law suits have repeatedly been taken to every level of court siting that the requirement is unconstitutional or that it violates the separation of Church and State. The first lawsuit was actually filed in in 1943, only a year after the pledge was first recognized by the United States government. A Jehovah Witness student stood on the grounds that the pledge violated their religion. The only time a judge rules in favor of the plaintiff is in 2005 when a Sacramento judge in California rules that the words “Under God” violates the children's right to be "free from a coercive requirement to affirm God.” On the flip side, n 2005, the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upholds a Virginia law that requires public schools to recite the Pledge of Allegiance daily, and rejects a claim that its reference to God is an unconstitutional promotion of religion. The court states that the pledge is not an affirmation of religion similar to a prayer, but simply a patriotic exercise. On May 9, 2014 - The Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts rules that the Pledge of Allegiance does not discriminate against atheists, saying that the words "under God" represent a patriotic, not a religious, exercise.

So there you have it. I don’t know why your student may not be reciting the pledge in his or her school, but it is not because the Federal Government has removed it from school. Technically, schools could lead students in the pledge, or students could recite it on their own. I guess that would be weird, though…and schools are probably too scared they will be sued.

But education trumps fear…every single time. So you wanna say it? Say it.


And that’s the conclusion of Gia’s Friday night of researching on mundane and useless information.

You are welcome.


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