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Pledge Of Allegiance

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The Pledge of Allegiance:

"Under God" in Accordance with Constitution

Dana Yormark

SPCM 111, Section L4

Professor Hals

December 7, 2005

The Pledge of Allegiance:

"Under God" in Accordance with Constitution

Do you remember reciting the Pledge of Allegiance every morning in your grade school classroom? Do you remember all of your peers placing their right hand over their heart and directing their attention towards one corner of the classroom? Do you remember the feelings that were evoked when the teacher chose you to be the lucky student that led the entire class in reciting the Pledge? For many individuals the answer to these questions is yes. However, most of these individuals do not remember experiencing any uncertainty or feeling that their constitutional rights were violated when reciting the Pledge. The debate over the constitutionality of the words "under God" in the current Pledge of Allegiance has become an extremely heated topic. Supporters of the Pledge believe that the two words should be kept in the Pledge, while opponents are viciously arguing to have them removed. Throughout the course of my paper I will supply a brief history of the Pledge, elaborate on the differing arguments of each side, and provide reasons why the current pledge is constitutional. The words "under God" should remain in the current Pledge of Allegiance because they do not violate any clause of the First Amendment, therefore making the Pledge constitutional.

First and foremost, it is important to become educated on the history of the Pledge of Allegiance so as to understand how the Pledge and its existing debate have transpired. To begin, the Pledge was originally composed 113 years ago in 1892 because of a campaign organized by a popular family magazine, Youth's Companion. As Haught (2005) stated, the campaign was created in order to "celebrate Columbus' discovery of America and the country's public school system" (p. 1). The man who won the contest, therefore becoming the author of the original Pledge of Allegiance, was named Francis Bellamy, a Baptist minister who called himself a Christian socialist (Hertzberg, 2002). However, Bellamy's original version of the Pledge has gone through many alterations and revisions since 1892. For instance, the National Flag Conference made alterations to the pledge in the 1920s, such as changing "my flag" to "the flag of the United States" and then finally to the way we recite it today as "the flag of the United States of America" (Haught, 2005, p. 2). The more important change came in 1954, after Francis Bellamy died, when a group named the Knights of Columbus added the words "under God" to the pledge (Tuccitto, 2005). As indicated by Hertzberg (2002), at the time "under God" became a part of the pledge, the United States was becoming a more religiously-based country due to the Cold War. Essentially, the two words were added so that the United States could distinguish themselves from other countries during an eruption of public piety.

This addition to the Pledge in 1954 was accepted at the time of the change, but the controversy surrounding the Pledge of Allegiance arose as time progressed. According to Hertzberg (2002), "when George Bush the elder and Michael Dukakis the hapless were running against each other for President, the Pledge got weaponized" (p. 3). Since that 1988 presidential debate, numerous lawsuits and arguments have arisen concerning the constitutionality of the words "under God". Since this time a man named Michael Newdow has become a key player in the pledge's controversy. Newdow won his first case filed in 2002, which argued that children like his daughter should not be forced to listen to others promote religious beliefs in schools, when the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled the words "under God" unconstitutional on June 20, 2002 (" Girl in pledge case..", 2002). Shortly after, that ruling was overturned because the mother of Newdow's child won her case arguing that Newdow did not have a right to sue because he did not have custody of her child ("Newdow sues", 2005).

Many individuals fully agree with Newdow, who continues to fight for a ruling stating the pledge is unconstitutional. These opponents of the phrase claim that it violates the freedom of religion clause of the First Amendment and it should be deleted because it violates the separation of church and state. By including "under God" in the pledge, the government is fostering the Christian religion, which goes against the Constitution's intent. Individuals with this viewpoint would prefer that the Pledge of Allegiance be revised to a version that does not include the words "under God". On the other hand, advocates for the Pledge of Allegiance are fighting to uphold the current wording in the Pledge because they do not believe that it is unconstitutional. Many of these individuals claim that the phrase "under God" is a patriotic statement, not one of religious fervor. Therefore, it does not violate the First Amendment and is in accordance with the Constitution. They argue that these words should not be tampered with because they hold much tradition and history.

The Pledge of Allegiance does not violate the Constitution and should therefore remain as it is currently for a number of valid reasons. To begin, "under God" is a phrase that acknowledges the various religions represented in the United States and can refer to more than one denomination, ultimately staying in accordance with the Constitution. "Under God" does not just refer to one specific religion. Yes, the Pledge of Allegiance contains the word "God", but it does not say which god. What God means to one person can be completely opposite of what it means to another. If the wording was different and the Pledge referred to one god specifically then there might be a violation present, but the current wording does not specifically state which god is being referenced. Therefore, "Under God" is an open-ended statement and can include a number of various religions. Just because the word god appears in the text does not in any way mean that it is fostering one specific type of religion. For instance, both the Christian and the Jewish religion refer to their higher power as "God",


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