Monday, March 23, 2015

The Odd, Checkered History of the Pledge of Allegiance

The Original 1892 Pledge

The Pledge of Allegiance has an odd, checkered history that most folks don't realize. It was originally written in 1892 by a former Christian minister, Francis Bellamy, and read:

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

Francis Bellamy was a socialist, and he intended the Pledge to be not just an American pledge, but rather a pledge that could be recited by any citizen of any country. Notice the generic wording of the original Pledge: "my Flag" instead of "the Flag of the United States of America." The Pledge was intended by Bellamy to promote a collectivist ideal, with citizens swearing fealty to their country rather than to God, their families, or their own self-interests, and thus promoting collectivism over individualism. .

In 1891, the year before he wrote the Pledge, Bellamy had been forced out of the ministry due to the Socialist nature of his sermons and lectures, with titles such as "Jesus the Socialist," "What is Christian Socialism," and "Socialism versus Anarchy." He would later leave the Church entirely, supposedly because of what he considered racism within the Church. Bellamy was a proponent of Worker's Rights, favored the redistribution of wealth, and was a founding member of the Society of Christian Socialists, serving as its first Vice-President.

Note that the original Pledge, as written by Bellamy, did not include the phrase "under God."

The Bellamy Salute and Its Replacement

The original pledge was intended to include a special salute with the arm extended outward toward the flag, palm up, as the words "to my Flag" were recited. This salute was replaced during World War II with the hand-over-the-heart gesture, because of the unfortunate similarity of the Bellamy Salute to the Nazi salute.

(Socialist movements historically have used a variety of salutes of an arm extended, with either the hand stretched outward or balled into a fist.)

1923 Changes

In 1923, the words "my Flag" were replaced with "the Flag of the United States of America." The revised Pledge 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."

1954 Changes

In 1954, President Eisenhower asked Congress to add the words "under God" to the Pledge. This was done response to the Communist dogma of atheism, and created the Pledge as we know it today:

"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."

Current Controversies

Several challenges have been made in recent years by atheists on the grounds that the phrase "under God" violates the separation of Church and State, and that it constitutes a form of discrimination against atheists. Thus far, the Courts have ruled that it does not violate the separation of Church and State because it is a patriotic exercise, not a religious exercise. The Courts have also ruled that it is not a form of discrimination as long as one is not forced to recite the Pledge, nor punished for not doing so.

The use of the Pledge has also been criticized by some Libertarians and Conservatives, pointing out its promotion of collectivism over individualism, and its Socialist origins.