Pledging our allegiance to a flag that flies over a nation “under God” has become a point of contention for some. Should “under God” be in the pledge, when it possibly infringes on the freedoms of those who don’t believe in God? Meanwhile, the Supreme Court upholds the constitutionality of the pledge and its spirit.
“Under God” was not always a part of the pledge. It was added officially on Flag Day in 1954. President Eisenhower signed a resolution adding the words three years after it was put into practice by the Catholic men’s organization, the Knights of Columbus.
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The Knights had lobbied Congress for its official addition. At the time, Eisenhower and other leaders in Washington approved the change.
“[The change] will help us to keep constantly in our minds and hearts the spiritual and moral principles which alone give dignity to man, and upon which our way of life is founded,” Eisenhower said.
The addition was one of several small changes made to the original work of Francis Bellamy, which was created as a part of a National Public School Celebration
of the 400th anniversary of Columbus’ arrival in the Americas. It became a habit for public school children to recite the pledge daily, and it was officially recognized by Congress in 1942.
Currently, the American Humanist Association is waging a campaign against the phrase. The group contends that about a third of Americans would like to have “under God” removed from the pledge. It is currently encouraging a boycott of the Pledge of Allegiance
, contending that the words were added in the middle of a “communist witch-hunt hysteria” and that they are discriminatory to those who don’t believe in God. Because of this belief, the organization is encouraging people to sit down instead of standing while the pledge is recited.
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Other groups are fighting to keep the pledge as is. The Liberty Institute, which fights to “restore religious liberty in America,” is working through the courts to counterbalance the American Humanist Association's push. Liberty Institute President and CEO Kelly Shackelford
says the attempt to take “under God” out of the pledge is an attack on religious freedom.
"Attacks on religious expression in our nation’s schools today are the worst that we have ever seen. This attempt to enact some sort of religious cleansing is not the law in this country and never has been. That would be religious hostility.”
While the Pledge of Allegiance has become a part of U.S. federal flag code and American culture, constitutional challenges to traditions surrounding the pledge have failed. The Supreme Court
has upheld that the code outlining behavior surrounding the pledge, “does not proscribe conduct, but is merely declaratory and advisory.” This means that students or any other individuals may choose to not participate, not stand, or not put hand over heart when the pledge is said. It also means that the pledge, even with the “under God” clause, is not a religious exercise and does not infringe religious freedom.
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