"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."
If you're like one of over 60 million children in the United States, you recite
this pledge at the beginning of class every morning. You've probably never
really thought about its meaning. You've probably never questioned its purpose. And
you probably didn't know that this modest national symbol has been changed
numerous times since it was written and is the source of much controversy.
In 1892, socialist Francis Bellamy wrote the Pledge of Allegiance for a national
family magazine called Youth's Companion. He had first envisioned it as
reading, "I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands,
one nation, indivisible, with liberty, equality, and fraternity for all."
However, Francis knew that many important politicians didn't believe in equal
rights for women and African-Americans, so he emitted the word "equality" from
the pledge to avoid offending them. The final version published in the magazine
was, "I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands, one
nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."
These words were recited until 1924, when the phrase, "the Flag of the United
States of America" replaced "my flag" so that it would be clear which flag was
being honored. Then came the 1950's. The Korean War and the Cold War were issues
of national concern. Many people looked for ways to distinguish God-fearing
Americans from supposedly-atheist Russian Communists. The Knights of Columbus, a
Roman Catholic Men's Group, sent many resolutions to Congress asking them to add
God to the pledge. Finally on June 8, 1954, a Bill was passed, and President
Eisenhower signed it into law six days later. The pledge now read, as it still
does, "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."
It stood unchallenged until June of 2002, when a federal appeals court ruled
that the phrase "under God" is unconstitutional because it endorses religion
(the First Amendment bans the government's endorsement of a religion by saying,
"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or
prohibiting the free exercise thereof").
Many people and politicians were extremely angered by this
decision, but I have to say I agree with it. The United States is supposed to be
a country where politics are separated from religion. Why then, is God mentioned
in the pledge? What does he have to do with our government, our patriotism, or
our loyalty to our country? If America is supposed to be a land where people can
practice any religion they want, then why are children forced to refer to it as
a land under (the Christian) God?
Aside from the political aspect, I think many people might be offended by this
phrase. Muslims, for example, believe that Allah is the Supreme Being. Hindus
worship multiple gods and deities. Buddhists, as far as I know, don't believe in
a God, but do worship Buddha. And atheists don't believe in any gods at all. All
of these people, all of these children, might object to the phrase "under God"
in the pledge, because it suggests that they are not very American if they don't
believe in God. And that is completely untrue. Believing in whatever you want is
VERY American. This country is supposed to be the land of religious freedom,
where one can believe in anything. The first Europeans who came to this
continent were trying to escape religious persecution. I don't think a religious
figure has any place in our political pledge.
Many people may argue that the phrase "one nation, under God" is not really
endorsing religion. Well, I ask you -- would the opposite phrase "one nation,
free from God" be denouncing religion? Definitely.
Some may say that "God" does not refer to any specific
religion, that it could pertain to Islam or even Buddhism. Well, how would you
like to say, "one nation, under Allah" or "one nation, under Buddha" every
I am not saying that God doesn't exist or that you shouldn't believe in him.
Please don't take it that way. I simply think that we shouldn't mention him in
the Pledge of Allegiance, because the American government is not supposed to be
involved with religion. Mentioning God in the pledge involves it, and could
offend many people. We can worship all we want at home, at church, even
individually at school. But we shouldn't force others to.
Let's make sure the United States stays a land of liberty,
justice, and equality for all.
Searching for Equality