Coming Next – "One Nation Under God"

As if flag burning was not enough, the Republicans next pledge to not deal with the economy, the Iraq War, health care or global warming. Instead, one of the next burning issues is the Pledge of Allegiance.

By the way, isn’t it just a little odd, that once a flag is old and not in great shape, that the acceptable procedure of what to do with the flag is to burn it.

And for the record, both of Washington’s U.S.Senators, Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell, voted against amending the Constitution to prohibit flag burning.

Anyway, keeping with the Republican priorities of dealing with the real issues facing Americans today, the Republican leadership on Tuesday said it plans to vote this summer on a same sex marriage amendment, abortion rights, Internet gambling, property rights and the Pledge of Allegiance.

In case you’ve forgotten, the pledge says:

” I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and the Republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible with liberty and justice for all.”

The issue goes back to the words “under God” which ironically were not in the first Pledge of Allegiance. “Under God” was added in 1954. Republicans don’t want the lower courts to have any judicial review of constitutional issues involved in using the words “under God”

Wikipedia has an interesting section on the Pledge of Allegiance, which for some odd reason states at the top “The neutrality of this article is disputed”

Maybe it’s because of the odd history of the Pledge of Allegiance that’s covered by the Wikipedia article and by God, much of popular history is not the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. It all depends on who’s telling it. Anyway here’s some of the wikipedia version:

The Pledge of Allegiance was written for the popular children’s magazine Youth’s Companion by socialist author and Baptist minister Francis Bellamy on September 7, 1892. The owners of Youth’s Companion were selling flags to schools, and approached Bellamy to write the Pledge for their advertising campaign. It was marketed as a way to celebrate the 400th anniversary of Columbus arriving in the Americas and was first published on the following day.

Bellamy’s original Pledge read as follows: I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands, one nation indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. It was seen by some Brightonians as a call for national unity and wholeness after the divisive Civil War. Bellamy had initially also considered using the words equality and fraternity but decided they were too controversial since many people still opposed equal rights for women and African Americans. Bellamy said that the purpose of the pledge was to teach obedience to the state as a virtue.

…In 1940 the Supreme Court, in deciding the case of Minersville School District v. Gobitis, ruled that students in public schools could be compelled to recite the Pledge, even Jehovah’s Witnesses like the Gobitases, who considered the flag salute to be idolatry. In the wake of this ruling, there was a rash of mob violence and intimidation against Jehovah’s Witnesses. In 1943 the Supreme Court reversed its decision, ruling in West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette that matters of religious conviction should be safeguarded from political control.

…On Flag Day, June 14, 1954, Congress passed the legislation adding the phrase “under God” to the Pledge.Before World War II, the Pledge was begun with the right hand over the heart during the phrase “I pledge allegiance”. The arm was then extended toward the Flag at the phrase “to the Flag”, and it remained outstretched during the rest of the pledge, with the palm facing upward, as if to lift the flag. An earlier version, the Bellamy salute, also ended with the arm outstretched and the palm upwards, but began with the right hand in a military salute, not over the heart. Both of these salutes differed from the Roman salute, where the palm was toward the ground. However, during the war the outstretched arm became identified with Nazism and Fascism, and the custom was changed: today the Pledge is said from beginning to end with the right hand over the heart.
On September 13, 1988, Sonny Montgomery became the first Congressman to lead the U.S. House in citing the Pledge of Allegiance as a permanent part of its daily and morning business operations [1].
On June 24, 1999 the Senate passed a resolution sponsored by Senator Bob Smith ofNew Hampshire to recite the Pledge before each day’s session.

There’s a lengthy discussion of the Knights of Columbus starting the drive to add “under God” and how Eisenhower went to a church sermon where the words were discussed as aligning with Abraham Lincoln’s usage in his speeches. I recommend reading the whole article but found the origin of the Pledge of Allegiance as a selling gambit much like lots of advertisements today to so very American. Sort of like signing the lyrics of a soap commercial before we use it, reinforcing subliminally our need to buy the same brand of soap next time.

And the whole issue of the flag salute – I wonder if the Republicans considered this as something we should revert to since it was a tradition at the time. Aren’t Republicans for maintaining American traditions?

But especially curious are the dates that Congress first decided to start their sessions with a Pledge of Allegiance – 1988 and 1999. Seems Congress has been a little slow in something schools have been doing starting in 1892 – a full century before. Isn’t it a little “Johnny Come Lately” of them to profess such concern about the actual wordage of the Pledge of Allegiance when they only officially started using the pledge so recently. Wikipedia also notes Congress first recognized the pledge as the official national one in 1945. Again it didn’t seem like such a high priority to them for so long a time.

A good article by Steve Sacks of Yale Law School points out the difficulties Republicans will have in trying to stop lower courts reviewing the constitutional issues like the first amendment.

One response to “Coming Next – "One Nation Under God"