Andrew has worked as an instructional designer and adjunct instructor. He has a doctorate in higher education and a master's degree in educational psychology.
The Pledge of Allegiance
'I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under - wait!' Whoa! We're getting ahead of ourselves.
If you're like me, and I assume you are because you're devilishly handsome, you probably had to recite the Pledge of Allegiance in school at least once, if not daily. Again, if you're like me, and I assume you are because you smell fantastic, you always wondered why you had to recite it and what the deal was with the whole controversy. Well, hopefully we'll clear some of that up, you can learn a little something, and then you can go back to being the beautiful, fragrant creature you are.
In 1892, a Baptist minister by the name of Francis Bellamy wrote the original Pledge for a children's magazine called The Youth's Companion. The original iteration was conceived as part of the celebration around the 400th anniversary of Columbus arriving in the new world. Designed as a way to support American nationalism, the Pledge also had a more capitalistic goal: to sell flags and subscriptions of The Youth's Companion to every schoolhouse in America. The original version was short and to the point, stating: 'I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.'
The pledge was first modified in 1923 due to the continuing influx of new immigrants into the United States. At what I'm sure was a delightful event called the National Flag Conference it was agreed that the statement 'my Flag' should be changed to specifically state 'the Flag of the United States'. This group of flag enthusiasts feared that new immigrants to the country would consider it a pledge to their own homelands, so they needed to be specific. Later, in the beginning of World War II the stance for the pledge was modified to include only the right hand over the heart, omitting the previously customary left hand extended, palm down. It was determined - and rightly so - that this far too closely resembled the Nazi salute.
The biggest, and by far most controversial, change came in 1954 with the addition of 'under God.' This came about due to the actions of a man by the name of Louis Bowman, a member of the Sons of the American Revolution, who argued it should be included because of Abraham Lincoln's usage of the phrase in the Gettysburg Address. In the 1950s, America was in the first terrifying throes of the Cold War with Communists and were trying desperately to distinguish themselves from them in any manner. As Bowman, the Sons of the American Revolution, and other groups, such as the Knights of Columbus, continued to add the phrase 'under God' to the Pledge whenever they got the chance, it took a coincidence of President Eisenhower being in attendance at a sermon on Lincoln's birthday to get the final push. Eisenhower, hearing the new pledge and seeking to differentiate America from the godless Communists, advocated for its official addition. In 1954, Congress passed a joint resolution formally enacting the change.
The Pledge, as it stands now, is as follows:
'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.'
Since the 1940s there have been challenges to the mandatory recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance in public schools. The first cases came from Jehovah's Witnesses who considered it idolatry to salute the Flag. Later challenges came throughout the 20th century and court rulings determined students didn't have to stand for the Pledge and didn't have to actually say the words.
The majority of the opposition comes down to what is known as the 'Establishment Clause' of the First Amendment. The idea is that the government, which public schools are very much considered, cannot and should not establish a religious precedence. In other words, as a free and democratic country we (Americans, not you and I) shouldn't have a state-mandated religion and shouldn't force citizens to participate in such a ritual.
The first decade of the 21st century has seen a number of lawsuits about students being forced to recite the Pledge. Unfortunately, most of them have been decided by judges based on procedural issues rather than confronting the core issue of religious freedom and whether or not the state is establishing a religion. When courts have faced this decision, they have often erred on the side of caution, arguing that if recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance is voluntary in a school then the students (or their parents/guardians) have no standing to sue. A recent court case decided that the phrase 'under God' was not religious but rather a patriotic statement.
So, an innocent little diddy written to help sell some flags and magazines has since become an issue of civil liberties. Funny how that happens. Let's all remember that the Pledge of Allegiance was written in 1892 with the goal of both enhancing national fervor as well as pushing copies of The Youth's Companion. It was written by Francis Bellamy and later modified to include specific mention of the United States of America as well as the phrase 'under God.' This addition, in 1954, has since caused a great deal of trouble based on numerous religious and irreligious groups challenging the requirement.
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