I never tire of the variety of subjects that come from a group of veterans sitting around the coffee table at Veteran Advocates of Ore-Ida and the next subject is testament to their diversity.
Commitment, promise, oath, vow, undertaking, bond, guarantee, word of honor, assurance. Can you guess what one word these words were referring to? It is a word that represents an allegiance to our United States Constitution, that represents an acknowledgement of our Star Spangled Banner, and that represents our very own personal bond that we individually bear as a citizen of this good ol’ U.S. of A. Yes, those of you that said the Pledge were spot on!
It was this very week in 1892 that for the first time our “Pledge of Allegiance” was recited by students in many of our U.S. public schools and a continuing controversy regarding our ‘Pledge of Allegiance.”
Objections on the grounds of religion were going on long before the phrase “under God” was added in 1954. Challenges from the Jehovah’s Witnesses led to mob violence and intimidation against the group, and that was back in the early 1940’s. So, since the 1943 Supreme Court decision, public schools have been prevented from punishing students for not reciting the pledge.
So, when in 1954 President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed a bill into law adding “under God” it again created quite a storm in some circles. One of the cases found its way to the Supreme Court in 1957 by Joseph Lewis challenging the addition of the new phrase. Again, the Court ruled that a nonbeliever may simply omit the words, “under God,” in reciting the pledge.
The cases throughout the years have brought about some heated arguments regarding the talk of penalties for failure or refusal to recite the “Pledge.” There were those folks trying to make it compulsory to recite the whole pledge, and those trying to take it totally out of our public schools.
The argument of separation of Church and State is one that comes up in many of the cases citing the 1st Amendment. But if you read the 1st Amendment you might come to the conclusion that “common sense” might be thrown into the equation. It carefully defines the manner, specific ways there shall be no concert or union or dependency on one or the other. It does not dictate that in every case that the State and Church or Religion are totally separate from each other.
Let me regress a little and talk about the history of the writing of the “Pledge of Allegiance.” It was first written in 1892 by a socialist minister Francis Bellamy. It was published in “The Youth’s Companion.” He wrote it to be used by any country throughout the world. The original words were, “I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all”.
In 1923, the words, “the Flag of the United States of America” were added. Then in 1954, President Eisenhower encouraged Congress to add the words “under God” and what we have today is:” 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.”
Even though the original “Pledge” was written back in 1892 it only received official recognition by Congress in June of 1942. It took form when it was formally included in the U.S. Flag Code. Amazing to me that after all these years, court cases and discussions regarding our flag and the “Pledge of Allegiance,” that these fights continue. They do and I guess it is because we are such a diverse country with freedoms that not many nations have, so it just might be refreshing to note we are free enough to evolve and learn different viewpoints. Doesn’t mean we have to agree with them!
I guess with all this back and forth it comes down to: parents or their legal guardians have the ultimate say as to whether a schoolchild will pledge or not or if the words ‘under God’ is recited or not! As I researched this issue I also came upon a tremendous controversy regarding our flag itself and what if any rules should be placed on it: such as fines or jail time for the disrespect of it. Maybe a discussion for another time.
“I also wish that the Pledge of Allegiance were directed at the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, as it is when the President takes his oath of office, rather than to the flag and the nation.” — Carl Sagan, 1934 to 1996, astrophysicist, astrobiologist, astronomer, cosmologist and author