I have often gotten into the discussion of the Pledge of Allegiance and it is always a sticky issue with Christians. The myth that is often propagated is that the phrase ‘Under God” has always been there and has always been a part of the pledge and so people who want it out are fighting against a long tradition of God in America. Unfortunately, this is pretty much a myth.
Older Christians will tell you that they always remember the phrase “under God” being in the pledge. In large part this is highly possible because of the fact he practice was universally adopted in 1954. Notice I said 1954 not 1776. The pledge didn’t even exist until almost thirty years after the Civil War. You would have to be of the World War Two generation to remember it not being there and for the most part people are from the baby boom generation who remember this and for them it probably was true. Even weirder is that some older than the baby boom still hold it in fondness and never mention that much that the phrase was not their before 1954 and I think for many of them the war and the sacrifices they made have a psychological hold on them that is deeply patriotic and religious so they never mention the time before ‘under God’ was even in the pledge.
Here is the truth. The phrase ‘under God’ was added during the time of the ‘Red Scare” when everyone was fearful of a takeover by Communism and so the idea was you could weed out the communists who were ‘Godless’ by adding it to the pledge and mandating it being said in public schools and functions. President Eisenhower agreed with this policy but it was not so much about bringing God back into the country as flushing out Communists. The whole Red Scare thing began to fizzle out when someone pointed out that the Constitution allows a person to be a Communist in this country if they want to as part of free speech and so the idea of flushing out Communists died with the Pledge died but the Pledge with its new two words did not go away. Over time their meaning changed and now it is kind a religious verses non religious thing and as much as one has a right t be a Communist in this country, one also has the right to be an atheist. For an atheist the pledge therefore has its issues and in large part it now seems that the pledge is being used to flush them out.
Not that atheists are united about the idea of the pledge either. Some say they would have no problem saying the pledge without the two words ‘under God’ but others dislike the pledge in total because it forces not only a religious allegiance but a political stance as well. I am not a fan of the Jehovah’s Witnesses but I have to say they have a right not to say the pledge without penalty. A true oath or pledge must be something voluntary. You can’t force a person’s allegiance, at least that is my understanding of having liberty being central over statist philosophy. To be honest, allegiance can look like it is being forced but what a person really believes in their heart is their own but will come out when that forced and fake allegiance is pressed. I have seen this many times when Christian parents are shocked to see their child abandon faith and the church as soon as they are old enough to do so. I fear that allegiance to the USA through the pledge might be similar until people are old enough to make a choice about it. I much rather we teach and persuade than force and coerce. Isn’t that ideally what this country is about.
As for the Pledge of Allegiance, I say it personally every week to start my church service. I also do a similar pledge to the Christian Flag. In both cases these are things I have freely chosen to pledge my allegiance to, not something I am forced to pledge allegiance to. It is a free choice and it is the use of my liberty that makes those pledges meaningful. Otherwise what you get is either blind allegiance or coercion.
The question of what should be done in schools remains but the case of we have always done this fades when you consider that in the almost two hundred forty years history of this nation the pledge as it stands ahs only been around for sixty years. That’s almost a 180 year span without it. Heck with the pledge origin at 1892, that means a 116 years with no pledge at all. This means that the pledge is something that should be the choice of schools and the individual also should have the right not to say it at all. They also should have the right to skip over words. The issue is the state advocating a religious belief system by allowing or forcing it to be in schools and to the second answer I would say yes they are but it is the allowed for part that might be different. If your going to give people the right to say the pledge then you have to give people the right not to say it or even ignore it.
I really see this as no different in may ways where the school allows for prayer around the flag. If people want to do this that is fine. It is when you start imposing penalties for not doing it that you are over the line. The one thing that does need to end is this notion that ‘Under God’ was always there which wasn’t and that it was put their for religious reasons when in fact it was put there for political reasons.
Next: The Constitution as Divinely Inspired