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4/20/04 Pledge’s History Marked By
Several Changes
by Glenn Franco Simmons
The history of the Pledge of Allegiance is one that is not generally known, so here is my attempt to explain some of its history.

According to Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia, and other sources, the pledge was written by socialist author and Baptist minister Francis Bellamy.

His original pledge reads: “I pledge allegiance to my flag and the republic for which it stands, one nation indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

The current pledge 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.”

Bellamy first wrote the pledge in August 1892 and it was published for the first time in October 1892. After a proclamation from then President Benjamin Harrison, the pledge was first used in public schools on Oct. 12, 1892, according to Wikipedia.

“In 1923 and 1924,” Wikipedia states, “the National Flag Conference called for the words ‘my flag’ to be changed to ‘the flag of the United States of America.’ The reason given was to ensure that immigrants knew to which flag reference was being made.”

It was not until Dec. 28, 1945 that Congress first recognized the pledge.

The Roman Catholic Knights of Columbus started a campaign in 1954 to amend the pledge so that the words ‘under God’ were added.

This was “to distinguish the United States from the officially atheist Soviet Union, and to remove the appearance of flag and nation worship,” Wikipedia states. “The phrase ‘nation, under God’ previously appeared in Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, and echoes the Declaration of Independence.”

Congress adopted the new language on June 18, 1954.

Wikipedia says that originally the pledge was often recited with the Roman salute: the right hand extended toward the flag. Once this salute became identified with the scourge of Nazism and fascism in the 1940s, it was changed to be said with hand over heart.

Uniformed military personnel are supposed to say the pledge by facing the flag and saluting as they would an officer.

Civilians should stand at attention and place their right hand over the heart.

Civilians are to remove their hats and place them over their heart as well.

The pledge was challenged even before the words under God were added, with legal challenges usually founded on the basis of freedom of religion.

Some religious denominations preclude swearing loyalty to any power less than God. Since 1943, government-run schools cannot punish students for not reciting the pledge.

Critics contend the words under God represent an official national endorsement of religion.

Others contend opposition to those two words constitutes an attack on religion, as well as an attack on this country’s foundation, the bedrock of which was a devout belief in God on the part of the majority of the Founders.

To me, the pledge is not out of line with the Founders’ beliefs, and it does not endorse a particular religion or denomination.

The Constitution guarantees freedom of religion, not freedom from religion, and that is a point often lost on many.

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