History of the US Pledge of Allegiance & the Phrase 'under God'
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1887 - Early Campaign for Patriotism in Public Schools
George T. Balch.
Source: goordnance.army.mil (accessed Sep. 19, 2013)
Oct. 1888 - The Youth's Companion Campaigns for US Flags in Public SchoolsThe Youth's Companion, the leading family magazine of the day with a circulation of over 400,000, began a campaign to sell American flags to public schools. "The magazine hoped that the 'Stars and Stripes [might] be hung upon the walls of every home, and of every school room in the land' so that 'patriotism and love of liberty [would] be unceasingly taught.'"
Apr. 1891 - Francis Bellamy Hired to Organize National Public School Celebration
Source: mountmorrisny.com (accessed Sep. 19, 2013)
David Morris, PhD The American Voice 2004: A Pocket Guide to Issues and Allegations, Oct. 7, 2004"In Apr. 1891... Bellamy announced his resignation [as pastor], and [Daniel] Ford, who admired Bellamy's command of language... agreed to hire Bellamy. Despite having no previous experience in publishing or business, Bellamy was assigned to work with [James B.] Upham in the premium department... Upham's most pressing need in the spring of 1891 was help organizing and publicizing the National Public School Celebration, which was mushrooming into a vast undertaking."
The Pledge of Allegiance handwritten by Francis Bellamy.
Source: University of Rochester website (accessed Oct. 2, 2013)
Concerned Women for America Oct. 14, 2003
[Editor’s Note: In 1957, the US Library of Congress Legislative Reference Service affirmed Francis Bellamy as the author of the Pledge.]
Oct. 1892 - Pledge Publicized on Columbus DayThe Pledge first receives national publicity through the official program of the National Public School Celebration of Columbus Day in Oct. 1892. During the Celebration it was repeated by public school students across the nation.
1895 - Balch's Flag Salute for Schools Published
Children performing the original flag salute used in US schools.
Source: mentalfloss.com, Jan. 7, 2012
1896-1898 - Custom of Rising for the Flag BeginsPatriotic fervor leading up to the Spanish-American War of 1898 spawns an informal custom for seated audiences to rise in the presence of the US flag when it passes by for review.
1917 - World War I Increases Demand for US FlagThe United States enters World War I, triggering an unprecedented demand for flags. Between Apr. 1916 and May 1917 the price of flags increases 100 to 300 percent. Many new flag manufacturing companies are established. Flag events, such as school pageants featuring the flag and displays at sporting events, are designed to rile patriotic support. Business leaders join in by producing and distributing pamphlets celebrating the flag. Major league baseball begins playing "The Star Spangled Banner" at all games in support of the military.
1918 - Prosecutions for Flag DesecrationA few prosecutions began of individuals for desecrating or insulting the flag, in violation of some state laws. The Kansas Supreme Court rules such laws were legal. E.V. Starr is sentenced to 10 years in prison in Montana for making disparaging comments about the flag.
1924 - Flag Code Gains Acceptance
Boy Scouts Official Handbook, First Edition, 1910.
Source: troop97.net (accessed Sep. 19, 2013)
The Pledge of Allegiance is amended, changing the words "I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States" to "I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America."
The Boy Scouts publish the Flag Code in their official handbook [earlier editions had mentioned flag etiquette also]. The American Legion has now distributed an estimated six million pamphlets on flag etiquette to schools, churches and public officials. In total, more than 14 million pamphlets have been distributed nationwide by various organizations.
28 states have by now accepted the Flag Code for school instruction.
1925 - Ku Klux Klan Endorses Flag CodeThe Ku Klux Klan (with about four million followers) endorses the Flag Code, and instructs the adolescent members of its Junior Order in flag etiquette. Membership requires an oath of allegiance to the flag and the Constitution. The Klan Marches over 40,000 members down Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, DC, carrying hundreds of American flags.
School children in Southington, CT pledging their allegiance to the flag in May 1942.
Library of Congress, loc.gov, May 23-30, 1942
Jeffrey Owen Jones and Peter Meyer, The Pledge: A History of the Pledge of Allegiance, 2010
[Editor’s Note: The Flag Code stipulated that the flag salute “be rendered by standing with the right hand over the heart; extending the right hand, palm upward, toward the flag at the words ‘to the flag’ and holding this position until the end, when the hand drops to the side.”]
Dec. 22, 1942 - Congress Changes Flag Salute to Hand over Heart Instead of Straight Arm Salute
Schoolchildren performing the revised flag salute.
Source: mentalfloss.com, Jan. 7, 2012
June 14, 1943 - Supreme Court Rules That Children Cannot Be Forced to Recite PledgeThe US Supreme Court, in West Virginia State Board of Education et al. v. Barnette et al. (110KB), rules 6-3 that children could not be forced to say the Pledge of Allegiance in school. Justice Robert H. Jackson wrote in his opinion, "If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that 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."
Feb. 12, 1948 - Sons of the American Revolution Chaplain Includes 'under God' in Pledge RecitationLouis A. Bowman, a member of the Board of Governors of the Illinois Society of the Sons of the American Revolution, and its Chaplain, leads the group in the Pledge of Allegiance with the words "under God" added. The National Society of Daughters of the American Revolution gives him an Award of Merit as "the originator of the [under God] idea."
[Editor’s Note: Bowman explains that the words “under God” were first used extemporaneously in Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, even though those words “do not appear in his written draft.”]
Apr. 22, 1951 - Knights of Columbus Add 'Under God' to Pledge Recited at Meetings"The organized movement for adding 'under God' to the Pledge of Allegiance can be traced to a resolution adopted by the [Knights of Columbus'] national board of directors in April 1951, at the height of the Korean War. The resolution called on all Knights to add the words 'under God' to the Pledge customarily recited at the openings of local meetings."
1952-1954 - Hearst Campaigns to Add 'Under God' to PledgeLouis A. Bowman repeats his revised Pledge at several other meetings of the Sons of the American Revolution. After one meeting in 1952, member John F. McKillip writes about the "under God" addition to his former employer, the newspaper tycoon William R. Hearst, Jr. The Hearst Newspapers begin a campaign to add "under God" to the US Pledge of Allegiance.
1953 - House and Senate Introduce Bills to Add 'Under God' to PledgeFederal legislators are lobbied by religious leaders from the Knights of Columbus, as well as the Hearst Newspapers and the American Legion, who are "worried that orations used by 'godless communists' sound similar to the Pledge of Allegiance." A bill to add "under God" to the Pledge of Allegiance is introduced in the House by Rep. Louis Rabaut (D-MI), and in the Senate by Sen. Homer Ferguson (R-MI).
May 11, 1954 - Library of Congress Makes Recommendation Concerning the PledgeCongress considers three variations of the "under God" phrase:
- "One Nation under God,"
- "One Nation, under God," and
- "One Nation indivisible under God."
President Dwight D. Eisenhower.
Source: biography.com (accessed Sep. 19, 2013)
"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."
June 17, 1963 - Supreme Court States That Reciting Pledge May Not Be a Religious ExerciseThe US Supreme Court in Abington v. Schempp ruled 8-1 that government mandated Bible reading in public schools was unconstitutional, but stated: "The reference to divinity in the revised pledge of allegiance, for example, may merely recognize the historical fact that our Nation was believed to have been founded 'under God.' Thus reciting the pledge may be no more of a religious exercise than the reading aloud of Lincoln's Gettysburg Address, which contains an allusion to the same historical fact."
Abington v. Schempp (217 KB), June 17, 1963
July 5, 1983 - Supreme Court Says 'Under God' Does Not Violate Establishment ClauseThe US Supreme Court in Marsh v. Chambers ruled 6-3 that sessions of the Nebraska state legislature could begin with a prayer given by a publicly funded chaplain because, over time, the practice had become a communication of shared values rather than a decidedly religious practice. Justice William J. Brennan repeated his conviction that the phrase "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance did not violate the Establishment Clause because those words "have lost any true religious significance."
Marsh v. Chambers (74 KB), July 5, 1983
Mar. 5, 1984 - 'Under God' Referenced in Supreme Court Nativity Scene RulingThe US Supreme Court in Lynch v. Donnelly ruled 5-4 that the city of Pawtucket in Rhode Island could continue to display a nativity scene as part of its Christmas display. In this decision, the Court held that the city had not violated the Establishment Clause because the display depicted the historical origins of Christmas and had "legitimate secular purposes." Declining to take a "rigid, absolutist view of the Establishment Clause," the court declared that each case is to be independently checked to determine whether the intent is secular or religious. Religion in general may be advanced by the government in some cases so long as there is no administrative entanglement with religion. The Court listed many examples of our "Government's acknowledgment of our religious heritage," and included Congress' addition of the words "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance. (Id. at 676-77)
Lynch v. Donnelly (84KB), Mar. 5, 1984
June 4, 1985 - Supreme Court Says 'Under God' Not UnconstitutionalThe US Supreme Court in Wallace v. Jaffree ruled 6-3 to invalidate Alabama's moment of silence statute. Justice Sandra Day O'Connor said the inclusion of the words "under God" in the Pledge is not unconstitutional because they "serve as an acknowledgment of religion with the legitimate secular purpose of solemnizing public occasions, and expressing confidence in the future." (Id. at 78 n.5 -- O'Connor, J., concurring)
Wallace v. Jaffree (131 KB), June 4, 1985
Sep. 13, 1988 - US House Begins Pledge RecitationsSonny Montgomery (D-MS) became the first Congressman to lead the US House of Representatives in citing the Pledge of Allegiance as a permanent part of its daily business operations.
During the 1988 US presidential campaign, candidate George Bush criticized candidate Michael Dukakis for his veto of a Massachusetts state bill to require the Pledge of Allegiance in all public schools in that state. House Republicans (then in the minority) surprised their chamber by offering a privileged resolution to require that each House day commence with the Pledge.
Then-Speaker Jim Wright (D-TX) came to the floor and chastised Republicans for using the Pledge of Allegiance to make a partisan point, saying, "I think it is very important that all of us recognize that the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag is something intended to unite us, not intended to divide us." However, with electoral sensitivities in mind, Speaker Wright then went on to announce he would call upon the chairman of the House Veterans' Committee, Sonny Montgomery (D-MS), to offer the Pledge when the House next met.
C-Span c-span.org, May 19, 2000
July 3, 1989 - Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy References Pledge
US Supreme Court Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy.
Source: biography.com (accessed Sep. 19, 2013)
Allegheny County v. ACLU (170 KB), July 3, 1989
Jan. 24, 1992 - Seventh Circuit Court Rules That Students May Opt Out of Reciting PledgeThe US Illinois Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, in Sherman v. Community Consolidated School District 21, ruled against plaintiff Robert Sherman, concluding that "that schools may lead the Pledge of Allegiance daily, so long as pupils are free not to participate."
Sherman v. Community Consolidated School District 21 (60KB), Jan. 24, 1992
June 24, 1992 - Supreme Court Declares School Prayers UnconstitutionalThe US Supreme Court in Lee v. Weisman ruled 5-4 that prayers during school graduation violated the Establishment Clause.
In his dissent, Associate Justice Antonin Scalia stated that "since the Pledge of Allegiance has been revised... to include the phrase 'under God,' recital of the Pledge would appear to raise the same Establishment Clause issue" as the prayers. "If students were psychologically coerced to remain standing during the invocation, they must also have been psychologically coerced, moments before, to stand for (and thereby, in the Court's view, take part in or appear to take part in) the Pledge. Must the Pledge therefore be barred from the public schools (both from graduation ceremonies and from the classroom)?"
Lee v. Weisman (111 KB), June 24, 1992
June 24, 1999 - Daily Pledge Recitation Instituted in US SenateSen. Bob Smith (I-NH) introduced a resolution (S.Res. 113) to begin reciting the Pledge in the Senate. The resolution to amend the Standing Rules of the Senate and institute a daily Pledge was adopted by the unanimous consent of the Senate on June 23, 1999. The Pledge of Allegiance will be recited daily in the Senate by its Presiding Officer, or another Senator designated for that purpose.
C-Span c-span.org, May 19, 2000
Mar. 14, 2001 - Michael Newdow Files Suit Arguing That 'Under God' in Pledge Is UnconstitutionalMichael A. Newdow, an emergency room physician who also earned a law degree from the University of Michigan, files a lawsuit arguing that having the words "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance is unconstitutional.
- Alfred T. Goodwin - Opinion [Appointed by: President Nixon, 1971]
- Stephen Reinhardt - Concur [Appointed by: President Carter, 1980]
- Ferdinand F. Fernandez - Partial Concurrence and Partial Dissent [Appointed by: President Bush, 1989]
The majority opinion by Judge Alfred T. Goodwin states:
"[N]o 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. The Pledge, as currently codified, is an impermissible government endorsement of religion because it sends a message to unbelievers 'that they are outsiders, not full members of the political community, and an accompanying message to adherents that they are insiders, favored members of the political community.'"
Aug. 9, 2002 - Justice Department Appeals to Ninth Circuit for 'en banc' rehearingThe US Justice department files an appeal with the US Ninth Circuit. The appeal "requests an 'en banc' rehearing before the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, meaning that an 11-judge panel is asked to consider the case as opposed to the [only] three judge panel that issued a 2-1 ruling."
Cable News Network (CNN) cnn.com, Aug. 9, 2002
Oct. 30, 2002 - President Bush Signs Bill Supporting 'Under God' in the Pledge
President George W. Bush reciting the Pledge of Allegiance.
Source: telegraph.co.uk, Mar. 25, 2004
Associated Press ap.org, Nov. 14, 2002
Feb. 28, 2003 - Ninth Circuit Rejects Bush's Appeal to Reconsider Constitutionality of 'Under God'The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals "rejected the Bush administration's request to reconsider its decision en banc that the Pledge of Allegiance is unconstitutional because of the phrase 'under God.'"
Cable News Network (CNN) cnn.com, Feb. 28, 2003
Mar. 4, 2003 - Judge Issues Stay in 'Under God' Case9th Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Alfred T. Goodwin, a President Richard Nixon appointee, "issued a 90-day stay, which allows schoolchildren in nine Western states to continue reciting the [under God] Pledge, pending a decision by the Supreme Court on whether it will review the case."
Los Angeles Times latimes.com, Mar. 5, 2003
Mar. 4, 2003 - US Senate Declares Support for PledgeSenate Resolution 71 expressing support for the Pledge of Allegiance passes by a 94-0 vote.
Senate Resolution 71, Mar. 4, 2003
May 20, 2003 - House Passes Resolution Challenging Ninth Circuit DecisionHouse Resolution 132 expressing the sense of the House of Representatives that the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling in Newdow v. United States Congress> is inconsistent with the Supreme Court's interpretation of the first amendment and should be overturned, passed by a vote of 400-7.
House Resolution 132, May 20, 2003
Oct. 14, 2003 - US Supreme Court Agrees to Hear Newdow CaseThe US Supreme Court agrees to hear the case, and "arguments in the case will be heard next year, with a ruling expected by June."
Cable News Network (CNN) cnn.com, Oct. 15, 2003
June 14, 2004 - Supreme Court Overturns Ninth Circuit Decision
Michael Newdow outside the US Supreme Court in 2004.
Source: usatoday.com, Jan. 9, 2009
While all eight justices who participated in the case voted to overturn a 2003 federal appeals court decision that would have barred the phrase in public schools as a violation of the constitutional ban on state-sponsored religion, a majority of five did so exclusively on procedural grounds, ruling that the atheist who brought the case, Michael A. Newdow, lacked legal standing to sue.
Newdow had claimed that his right to influence his daughter's religious views was infringed by daily teacher-led recitations of the pledge in her Sacramento-area public school. But the five justices noted that the child is caught in the middle of a custody dispute between Newdow and Sandra Banning, who wants her daughter to recite the pledge...
...The ruling leaves the door open to another case challenging recitation of the pledge in the schools, but it would take years for such a case to work its way to the Supreme Court."
Washington Post "Justices Keep 'Under God' in Pledge," washingtonpost.com, June 15, 2004
Sep. 23, 2004 - US House Passes Bill to Protect PledgeThe US House of Representatives voted 247-173 to pass the Pledge Protection Act 2004 (H.R. 2028). The introductory language of the bill states that its purpose is: "To amend title 28, United States Code, with respect to the jurisdiction of Federal courts over certain cases and controversies involving the Pledge of Allegiance." The bill was passed to the Senate, but no further action was taken.
Pledge Protection Act 2004 (H.R. 2028), Sep. 23, 2004
Jan. 6, 2005 - Newdow Files Second Lawsuit"An atheist who sued because he did not want his young daughter exposed to the words 'under God' in the Pledge of Allegiance has filed another lawsuit - this time with other parents.
The plaintiff, Michael Newdow, won his case more than two years ago before a federal appeals court, which said it was an unconstitutional blending of church and state for public school students to pledge to God.
In June, the Supreme Court dismissed the case, saying Dr. Newdow could not lawfully sue because he did not have custody of his elementary-school-age daughter and because her mother objected to the lawsuit.
In the latest challenge, which was filed Monday in federal court in Sacramento, eight co-plaintiffs have joined the suit, and all are custodial parents or the children themselves, Dr. Newdow said...
'I want this decided on its merits,' said Dr. Newdow, a doctor and a lawyer, who again is the lawyer in the latest pledge case."
Associated Press nytimes.com, Jan. 6, 2005
Associated Press ap.org, Sep. 14, 2005
Sep. 29, 2005 - House Passes Resolution Calling for Supreme Court to Uphold PledgeHouse Concurrent Resolution 245 expressing the sense of Congress that "the United States Supreme Court should at the earliest opportunity" recognize "the importance and Constitutional propriety of the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance by school children." The resolution passed 383-31.
House Concurrent Resolution 245, Sep. 29, 2005
July 19, 2006 - Pledge Protection Act Passes in HousePledge Protection Act 2005 (H.R. 2389) that would amend title 28, United States Code, with respect to the jurisdiction of Federal courts over certain cases and controversies involving the Pledge of Allegiance, passed 260-167. The bill was introduced to the Senate as S.1046 but the 109th Congress (2006-2007) never voted on the issue.
Pledge Protection Act 2005 (H.R. 2389), July 19, 2006
Jan. 29, 2007 - 2007 Pledge Protection Act Introduced to HouseRepresentative Todd Akin (R-MO) introduces the 2007 Pledge Protection Act (H. R. 699) to the first session of the 110th Congress. The bill is referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary, and then to the Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties. No further action was taken.
2007 Pledge Protection Act (H. R. 699) (45 KB), Jan. 29, 2007
Dec. 4, 2007 - Ninth Circuit Hears Second Newdow CaseFollowing appeals to the Sep. 14, 2005 decision by Rio Linda Union School District, the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, and the United States of America, oral arguments for Newdow et al. v. Rio Linda Union School District et al. took place in front of a three-judge panel at the US Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit in San Francisco, CA. The judges to hear the case were Dorothy W. Nelson, Stephen Reinhardt, and Carlos T. Bea.
Newdow et al. v. Rio Linda Union School District et al. (894 KB), Mar. 11, 2010
Mar. 11, 2010 - Ninth Circuit Upholds 'Under God' in Second Newdow Case"In Mr. Newdow's latest case against 'under God' in the Pledge, the Ninth US Circuit Court of Appeals panel ruled, in a 2-to-1 decision, that the schoolroom routine for millions of children is not a violation of the Constitution, but a historical reflection of the Founding Fathers' beliefs that 'serves to unite our vast nation.'
'Not every mention of God or religion by our government or at the government's direction is a violation of the Establishment Clause,' wrote Judge Carlos Bea for the majority in the opinion that was issued Thursday.
'Without knowing the history behind these words, one might well think the phrase 'one Nation under God' could not be anything but religious,' wrote Judge Bea. 'History, however, shows these words have an even broader meaning, one grounded in philosophy and politics and reflecting many events of historical significance.'"
Christian Science Monitor, "Federal Court Approves 'Under God' in Pledge of Allegiance," csmonitor.com, Mar. 11, 2010
Newdow v. Rio Linda Union School District (894 KB), Mar. 11, 2010
Sep. 4, 2013 - 'Under God' Challenged in Massachusetts Supreme Court"Every attempt to eliminate the mention of God [in the Pledge] has thus far failed, but the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts will hear arguments on Wednesday [Sep. 4, 2013] seeking removal of the two words for a new reason: discrimination.
'This is the first challenge of its kind' said Roy Speckhardt, the executive director of the American Humanist Association, an atheist group arguing for the plaintiffs. 'We feel very confident that we have a strong case.'
That case, which was brought by an unidentified family of a student at a school in suburban Boston, will be argued on the premise that the pledge violates the Equal Rights Amendment of the Massachusetts Constitution. It is the first such case to be tried on the state level: All previous attempts have been argued in federal court on the grounds that 'under God' was an unconstitutional violation of the separation of church and state."
Cable News Network (CNN) "'Under God' Part of Pledge of Allegiance Under Review in Massachusetts," cnn.com, Sep. 4, 2013
May 9, 2014 - Massachusetts Supreme Court Upholds 'Under God' in the Pledge of Allegiance"Massachusetts' highest court ruled Friday [May 9, 2014] that the Pledge of Allegiance does not discriminate against atheists, saying that the words 'under God' represent a patriotic, not a religious, exercise...
Roy Speckhardt, the executive director of the American Humanist Association, an atheist group that provided legal services for the plaintiffs, called the decision a setback. But he said the group felt confident about a similar case filed in New Jersey last week that seeks to show that the pledge engendered a climate of discrimination...
The [court's] decision said the plaintiffs failed to prove that reciting the pledge resulted in negative treatment... But the ruling said that 'should future plaintiffs demonstrate that the distinction created by the pledge as currently written has engendered bullying or differential treatment,' the court 'would leave open the possibility that the equal rights amendment might provide a remedy.'"
Doe v. Acton Boxborough Regional School District (894 KB), May 9, 2014
Feb. 4, 2015 - New Jersey Superior Court Upholds 'Under God' in the Pledge of Allegiance"The phrase 'Under God' in the Pledge of Allegiance does not violate the rights of those who don't believe in God and does not have to be removed from the patriotic message, a Superior Court judge has ruled [on Feb. 4, 2015].
In dismissing a lawsuit brought against the Matawan-Aberdeen Regional School District, Superior Court Judge David Bauman said the reference to God in the pledge is more of a declaration of patriotism than it is of religious beliefs...
The ruling comes after the American Humanist Association sued the Matawan-Aberdeen Regional School District on behalf of an unidentified family claiming the phrase 'Under God' violated the protections given to atheists and others who don't believe in God or gods."
Jan. 29, 2019 - College Reinstates Pledge in Wake of ControversyRobert Miller, president of the Santa Barbara City College Board of Trustees, decided to stop reciting the Pledge of Allegiance at meetings in part because of the phrase "one nation under God," which he thought violated the rights of people who do not believe in God.
Media coverage resulted in a backlash against the decision, and on Jan. 29, 2019, the school announced on Facebook that the Pledge of Allegiance would be reinstated at the Board of Trustee meetings. Rob Lowe, actor and Santa Barbara resident, tweeted on Jan. 30, 2019, "Humiliated for Santa Barbara City College making national news for their idiocy."
Blanca Garcia, "Santa Barbara City College Embroiled in Pledge of Allegiance Controversy," independent.com, Jan. 31, 2019
Rob Lowe, Twitter.com, Jan. 30, 2019
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