The Pledge of Allegiance should remain part of the American experience, but it should revert to the officially recognized 1942 version. The pledge creates an opportunity to affirm all of the best things about the United States. The 1942 format served that purpose perfectly for many years. The addition of the phrase “under God” renders the pledge inapplicable for many and should be removed. Returning the pledge to its 1942 form would better reflect true “liberty and justice for all.”
The pledge serves as a succinct description of our country. The phrase “the United States of America” reminds us that we are a collection of states, deliberately and intentionally united. The phrase “and to the republic for which it stands” teaches a civics lesson: the United States is, in fact, a republic – not a democracy. The distinction is important, because “[i]n a Republic, the sovereignty resides in the people themselves” and those people choose the government to serve their needs (“Republic vs Democracy”). The pledge reiterates the qualities of unity, liberty, and justice upon which the country was founded. Opportunities to recite the pledge allow us to remind each other of the best features of our country.
In 1892, Francis Bellamy penned the original version of the pledge: “I pledge of allegiance to my flag and the Republic for which it stands – One nation indivisible – with liberty and justice for all.” It caught on, and students began reciting it in school. When Congress officially recognized the pledge in 1942, the phrase “to my flag” had been changed to “to the flag of the United States of America.” At the same time, Congress amended the Flag Code to change the salute to the hand-over-the-heart posture, rejecting the author’s original instruction for a stiff-arm salute that resembled that of Nazi Germany (Greene). Shortly after, in 1943, the Supreme Court ruled that recitation of the pledge was strictly voluntary. In the words of Justice Robert Jackson, “. . . no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein” (Lipka). For over forty years, the accepted version of the pledge offered all United States residents, regardless of religious conviction, the opportunity to voluntarily express appreciation for the nation.
Eisenhower endorsed the addition of the phrase “under God” in 1954, in a reaction against the official atheism of the Soviet Union (Lipka). Recitation of the pledge remains voluntary, therefore the addition is not strictly a violation of the First Amendment. However, the phrase alienates atheists and other religious groups. For example, the Jewish faith prohibits the pronunciation of the name “God”; in fact, it is usually written “G-d.” The phrase, “under God”, creates unnecessary tension for some who would otherwise enjoy participating in a recitation. The phrase also hints at a national religion and implies some sort of deistic national preference and protection. This defeats the purpose of the pledge, which is to assert unity and celebrate freedom.
Residents of the United States enjoy privileges that are cause for appreciation and celebration, and there should be regular opportunities to express those sentiments in reciting the pledge together. The original form of the pledge emphasized unity, liberty, and justice, without reference to religion or a deity. The pledge should officially return to the 1942 form which can be affirmed by all of the people of the United States.
Greene, Bob. “The Peculiar History of the Pledge of Allegiance.” CNN. Cable News
Network, 23 Dec. 2013. Web. 19 Mar. 2017.
Lipka, Michael. “5 Facts about the Pledge of Allegiance.” Pew Research Center. Pew
Research Center, 04 Sept. 2013. Web. 19 Mar. 2017.
“REPUBLIC vs. DEMOCRACY.” Republic vs. Democracy. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Mar. 2017.