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."
1892 - Youth's Companion Organizes Columbus Day Events"[Francis] Bellamy joined his experience as a preacher with the Companion’s promotional strategies to generate tremendous interest in the Columbian commemoration (with the Companion profiting from the sale of American flags throughout the lead-up to the celebration). [W]ith the official commemoration date of October 21, 1892, approaching, Bellamy began developing a program for schools to follow, which the Companion published in its September 8  edition. Along with parades honoring veterans, singing patriotic songs, and flying American flags in front of schools, the Companion urged that a scripted address entitled “The Meaning of the Four Centuries” be delivered at each community’s celebration. The address, which the Companion published along with its proposed celebratory program, explicitly linked the 'memorable milestone' of Columbus’s voyage with American progress as exemplified by the public school. In language that is difficult to imagine being used to describe public education in the United States in the twenty-first century, the address declared,
'we, therefore, on this anniversary of America present the Public School as the noblest expression of the principle of enlightenment which Columbus grasped by faith. We uplift the system of free and universal education as the master-force which, under God, has been informing each of our generations with the peculiar truths of Americanism. America, therefore, gathers her sons around the schoolhouse today as the institution closest to the people, most characteristic of the people, and fullest of hope for the people.'
According to the Youth’s Companion, a student recitation or pledge in salute of the flag was to be the highlight of the Columbus Day celebration (as it would be during Patriot’s week over thirty years later). The United States, however, did not have an official pledge of national faith or allegiance. Instead, a variety of pledges existed. George T. Balch had penned one for students to recite during the ﬁrst Flag Day celebration in 1885, which some schools had already adopted, making it an obvious choice for use in the Columbus Day program. It read, 'I give my heart and my hand to my country—one country, one language, one ﬂag.' Bellamy disliked it, however, calling it 'pretty but childish,' and claimed that students should recite something with greater 'historical meaning.' Bellamy, therefore, composed his own pledge, which consisted of the following: 'I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.'"
University of Rochester Newsroom, "Parsing the Pledge of Allegiance," rochester.edu, June 13, 2018
The Pledge of Allegiance handwritten by Francis Bellamy.
Source: University of Rochester website (accessed Oct. 2, 2013)
"I Pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands; one Nation indivisible, with Liberty and Justice for All."
The Pledge was accompanied by instructions for a salute to be performed as part of the Columbus Day celebrations: "At the words, 'To the Flag,' the right hand is extended gracefully, palm upward, toward the Flag, and remains in this gesture till the end of the affirmation; whereupon all hands immediately drop to the side."
Bellamy, a socialist and Baptist clergyman, writes the "Pledge of Allegiance" to "reflect the views of his cousin, Edward Bellamy, author of Looking Backward and other socialist utopian novels."
Concerned Women for America Oct. 14, 2003
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"George Balch's next writing project is published one year after his death. It is described as a patriotic primer, and is focused on teaching that 'the first step in learning how to govern ourselves is to learn how to obey,' and recommends training 'us in such habits of behavior as will best fit us to become good members of civil society and patriotic American citizens.'
The primer also includes 'The American Patriotic Salute,' which is considered 'the first known organized flag salute designed for use in American public schools.' In the salute espoused in the primer, 'students touched first their foreheads, then their hearts, reciting together 'We give our Heads! -- and our Hearts! -- to God! and our Country!' Then... with their right arms outstretched and slightly elevated, palm down, in the direction of the flag, they completed the salute: 'One Country! One Language! One Flag!''
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.
Bellamy's "Pledge of Allegiance" is included in the Flag Code [Title 4, United States Code, Chapter 1], although the words are amended from "I pledge allegiance to my flag" to "I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States."
Most major American newspapers publish the Flag Code following the conference, and the American Legion distributes 300,000 copies throughout the nation. 51 additional organizations join the movement to distribute copies of the Flag Code throughout the United States.
1924 - Flag Code Gains AcceptanceThe 2nd (and final) National Flag Conference is held.
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.
The Court would reverse its decision three years later in the ruling of West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette.
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 SaluteCongress amends the Flag Code, substituting the original straight arm salute with the current salute of "the right hand over the heart. Congress apparently was embarrassed by the similarity between the original Flag salute and the Nazi salute."
The code now reads "The Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag... should be rendered by standing at attention facing the flag with the right hand over the heart. When not in uniform men should remove their headdress with their right hand and hold it at the left shoulder, the hand being over the heart. Persons in uniform should remain silent, face the flag, and render the military salute."
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., 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."
"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 PledgeThe US Supreme Court in Allegheny County v. ACLU ruled 5-4 (to strike) on the display of a creche at a courthouse and 6-3 (to uphold) on the display of a menorah at a county building. Justice Kennedy, in his dissent, said "To be sure, no one is obligated to recite this phrase ["one nation under God"]... but it borders on sophistry to suggest that the 'reasonable' atheist would not feel less than a 'full membe[r] of the political community' every time his fellow Americans recited, as part of their expression of patriotism and love for country, a phrase he believed to be false." (Id. at 673)
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 PledgeUS President [George W.] Bush signs a bill "reaffirming -- with a slap at the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals -- references to God in the Pledge of Allegiance and the national motto." The bill is approved unanimously in the Senate, with only five "no" votes in the House. The bill is, in effect, a show of support, and carries no legal weight.
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
July 18, 2005 - Court Narrows Newdow Pledge CaseOn Monday, July 18, 2005, a Federal judge declared that he would limit the Newdow Pledge case.
According to AP news:
“A federal judge said Monday [July 18, 2005] he is inclined to dismiss part of a lawsuit brought by a Sacramento atheist who claims the Pledge of Allegiance is an unconstitutional endorsement of religion.
U.S. District Judge Lawrence Karlton said he would allow Michael Newdow, a doctor and lawyer, to sue four Sacramento-area school districts where children he is representing attend and recite the pledge. The judge said Newdow could not challenge the pledge itself and the words ‘under God,’ which Congress inserted in 1954.
If the judge stands by his comments Monday, Newdow’s latest lawsuit would focus strictly on whether reciting the pledge in public schools is an unconstitutional endorsement of religion. Even if Newdow were to win on that point, the pledge itself would remain intact.
The judge said Newdow may have a valid point.
Newdow’s lawsuit was filed against the school districts, the state and Congress and seeks to have the entire pledge declared unconstitutional…
Eight co-plaintiffs have joined the latest lawsuit, all of whom are children or custodial parents who have filed the suit on behalf of their children, Newdow said. The plaintiffs’ names have been withheld from the suit for fear of physical harm…
Karlton did not indicate when he would issue a written ruling.”
The case is Newdow v. Congress, 05-00017.
Associated Press July 18, 2005
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"A unanimous Supreme Court ruled [8-0] yesterday that the phrase 'under God' may remain in the Pledge of Allegiance as recited in public school classrooms. But the Flag Day decision fell far short of the clear endorsement of the pledge's constitutionality that President Bush and leaders of both parties in Congress had sought.
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
Aug. 10, 2005 - Appeals Court Upholds Virginia PledgeOn Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2005, a federal appeals court ruled 3-0 to uphold mandatory recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance in Virginia schools.
“The federal appeals court in Richmond today [Aug. 10, 2005] upheld the Virginia law that requires public schools to lead a daily recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance.
Edward Myers of Sterling, Virginia — a father of three — claimed the law is unconstitutional. He says the reference to “one nation under God” in the pledge promotes religion.
Children in Virginia public schools are required by law to recite the pledge each day. Those opposed are allowed to stand or sit quietly. Myers says forcing them to listen still violates their rights.
But a three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals disagreed, ruling that the pledge is a patriotic exercise, not an affirmation of religion similar to a prayer.
Myers’s attorney, David Remes, says the appeals court failed to examine the impact of the pledge on children in a school setting."
Associated Press Aug. 10, 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
Oct. 31, 2007 - Michael Newdow Files New Challenge to the Pledge of AllegianceRev. Dr. Michael Newdow, Esq., whose lawsuit to remove the phrase “under God” from the Pledge of Allegiance was dismissed by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2004 for a “lack of standing,” has joined two anonymous parents to file a new lawsuit on the same matter in New Hampshire. The Oct. 31, 2007 lawsuit , officially called The Freedom From Religion Foundation; Jan Doe and Pat Doe, Parents; Doechild-1, Doechild-2 and Doechild-3, Minor Children; v. U.S. Congress, U.S.A, Hanovers School District, The Dresden School District, and School Admin Unit 70, stated:
“By placing the religious words ‘under God’ into the Pledge, Congress not only interfered with the patriotism and national unity the Pledge was meant to engender, but it actually fostered divisiveness … in a manner expressly forbidden by the Constitution …
[E]ndorsing the religious notion that God exists [creates a] societal environment where prejudice against atheists — is perpetuated …
Plaintiffs, generally, deny that God exists, and maintain that their constitutional and statutory rights are abridged when the school district defendants participate in making the purely religious, monotheistic claim that the United States is ‘one nation under God’…
By endorsing the religious notion that God exists, the now-religious Pledge creates a societal environment where prejudice against atheists – and, thus, against Plaintiffs here – is perpetuated …
The rights of the Doe Plaintiff parents to instill in their children the religious beliefs they find persuasive – free from governmental influence – has been abridged by Defendants’ practices….
It should be noted that Plaintiffs are making no objection to the recitation of a patriotic Pledge of Allegiance. The government is certainly within its right to foster patriotism, and it may certainly make the determination that recitation of a Pledge of Allegiance serves that purpose. However, government may not employ or include sectarian religious dogma towards this end….
By placing the religious words ‘under God’ into the Pledge, Congress not only interfered with the patriotism and national unity the Pledge was meant to engender, but it actually fostered divisiveness . . . in a manner expressly forbidden by the Constitution.” Oct. 31, 2007 Freedom From Religion Foundation, et al., vs. U.S.A., et al
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.'" Newdow v. Rio Linda Union School District (894 KB), Mar. 11, 2010
Christian Science Monitor, "Federal Court Approves 'Under God' in Pledge of Allegiance," csmonitor.com, Mar. 11, 2010
For more information on this case, see “Newdow v. Carey, Pledge Case #2 (2005-2010).”
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."
Oct. 2, 2017 - India Landry Expelled from Texas School for Refusing to Stand and Recite PledgeIndia Landry, a senior at the public Windfern High School in Houston, Texas, had refused to stand or recite the pledge some 200 times before doing so in the principal's office, resulting in her expulsion.
Though the expulsion was reversed days later with no explanation, Landry (via her mother) sued the school district and the principal, Martha Strother.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton defended the practice of requiring students to stand and recite the pledge, something they can only be excused from with a parent's note according to Texas law. Paxton stated, "school children cannot unilaterally refuse to participate in the pledge... Requiring the pledge to be recited at the start of every school day has the laudable result of fostering respect for our flag and a patriotic love of our country. This case is about providing for the saying of the pledge of allegiance while respecting the parental right to direct the education of children.”
The school district was excused from the lawsuit and the remaining case against the principal was settled out of court in Dec. 2018, though the case remained in federal court (with Paxton defending the Texas law) as of Dec. 2018.
Emma Platoff, "Attorney General Ken Paxton Defends Texas Law Requiring Students to Stand for Pledge of Allegiance," texastribune.org, Sep. 25, 2018
Shelby Webb, "Ex-Cy-Fair ISD Student, Principal Settle Suit over Refusal to Recite Pledge of Allegiance," houstonchronicle.com, Dec. 28, 2018
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
Feb. 2019 - Florida Sixth Grader Arrested for Refusal to Stand and Recite PledgeAn 11-year-old at Lawton Chiles Middle Academy in Lakeland, Fla. refused to stand and recite pledge on Feb. 4, 2019, resulting in a heated exchange between him and the teacher. The student told the substitute teacher that he believed the flag and anthem to be racist
According to the Lakeland Police Department, the child was arrested for “creat[ing] another disturbance and ma[king] threats while he was escorted to the office.” The sixth grader was charged with "disruption of a school facility and resisting an officer without violence."
The American Civil Liberties Union of Florida tweeted, “This is outrageous. Students do not lose their First Amendment rights when they enter the schoolhouse gates. This is a prime example of the over-policing of Black students in school.”
The substitute teacher was unaware that students could not be required to stand and recite the pledge. The school district stated, "We do not condone the substitute’s behavior. We respect our students’ right to freedom of expression and we are committed to protecting that critical right while ensuring peaceful classrooms so all students can learn."
Kristine Phillips, "Florida Sixth-Grader Arrested after Dispute with Teacher over Pledge of Allegiance,"washingtonpost.com, Feb. 18, 2019
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