In Pledge of Allegiance, the words “under God,” were an afterthought

The Pledge was written in 1892 by a socialist minister as part of a handbook for students. The words, "under God" were added in 1954, 62 years later.

An exchange on Facebook Thursday showed the importance of studying history before jumping into a debate over what was or was not intended by the socialist minister who wrote the Pledge of Allegiance.

One lady proposed a boycott of Pepsi because it has a new can that includes the Pledge but does not include the words “under God.”

She said removal of the words destroyed the the intentions of the Pledge. As a student of history, I knew that the orginal draft of the Pledge, written by socialist minister Francis Bellamy for a student handbook, “The Youth’s Companion, on Sept. 8, 1892, said:

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

That’s all it said and it was recited that way until 1923, when the words “the Flag of the United States of America” were added to read: “I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

The pledge stayed that way for 31 more years until president Dwight D. Eisenhower decided to include two words, “under God” as what he called a “response to the Communist threat” at the time.

Bellamy died in 1931 but his daughter wanted the Pledge left alone and opposed the change, but Eisenhower got his way and the pledge was changed to read:

“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 Federal Flag Code reads:

The Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag: “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,” should be rendered by standing at attention facing the flag with the right hand over the heart. When not in uniform men should remove any non-religious headdress with their right hand and hold it at the left shoulder, the hand being over the heart. Persons in uniform should remain silent, face the flag, and render the military salute.

–U.S. Flag Code

Interestingly, the code does not “require” standing. It says “should.” It also allows those reciting the pledge to leave any religious headdress on their heads, which flies in the face of those who criticize, for example, Muslims who keep their hijab in place.

In his student handbook, Bellamy wrote:

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 Compantion

In World War II, some thought extending the hand looked too much like the Nazi salute and the law was changed to putting the hand over one’s heart.

When I suggested on Facebook Thursday that Pepsi’s decision to drop the words “under God” was no big deal, a couple of critics claimed I was recommending removing “God” from everything.

As a student of Thomas Jefferson’s school of higher learning — The University of Virginia — I was taught that the “establishment clause” of the 14th amendment to the Constitution prohibits the government form “favoring one religious view over another or even favoring religion over non-religion.”

Jefferson was a firm “theist” who believed in God but not traditional Christian divinity, and rejected the Trinity and any divinity of Jesus.

Notes the “Thomas Jefferson Encyclopedia” and The Jefferson Monticello:

Thomas Jefferson’s religious beliefs have long been a subject of public discussion, and were a critical topic in several of his important political campaigns as he was viciously and unfairly attacked for alleged atheism.

Jefferson took the issue of religion very seriously. A man of the Enlightenment, he certainly applied to himself the advice which he gave to his nephew Peter Carr in 1787: “Question with boldness even the existence of a god; because, if there be one, he must more approve the homage of reason, than that of blindfolded fear.”1 Jefferson read broadly on the topic, including studying different religions, and while he often claimed that religion was a private matter “between Man & his God,” he frequently discussed religion.

–Thomas Jefferson Encyclopedia

This, of course, does not play well with fundamentalists or evangelicals, but it is understood by those who believe in God but not organized religion, which Pew Research says is the fastest area of growth in America.

Christianity, Pew’s polls conclude, continues to decline in “a rapid pace” in the United States. Protestants have become a minority, dropping from 51 to 43 percent in the last 10 years.while non-Christian religions have “grown modestly” as a share of the American adult population.

Pew also sees growth of those who express “no affiliation” with a religious denomination.

“The changes underway in the American religious landscape are broad-based,” Pew says. “The Christian share of the population is down and religious “nones” have grown across multiple demographic groups: white people, black people and Hispanics; men and women; in all regions of the country; and among college graduates and those with lower levels of educational attainment.”

© 2004-2022 Blue Ridge Muse

© 2021 Blue Ridge Muse