We open all of our meetings with the "Pledge of Allegiance." It is an expression of allegiance to the Flag of the United States and the Republic of the United States of America. Throughout history there have been many versions of the Pledge. It was composed originally by Colonel George Balch, a civil war veteran, who went on to become auditor of the New York Board of Education. Balch felt it was important to teach children, especially immigrants, loyalty to the United States. He wrote books on the subject and distributed flags to every classroom and school. In 1887, Balch's version was:
"We give our head and hearts to God and our country; one country, one language, one Flag!"
Balch's Pledge was embraced by many schools and by the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR).
In 1892, Francis Bellamy, a baptist minister and christian socialist, did not approve of Balch's version and felt it was juvenile and lacked dignity. He created this Pledge:
"I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."
Bellamy's Pledge was designed to be recited in 15 seconds, quick and to the point. The Bellamy "Pledge of Allegiance" was first published in the "Youth's Companion," a popular children's magazine on September 8, as part of the National Public-School Celebration of the 400th Anniversary of Christopher Columbus's arrival to the Americas. This event was conceived and promoted by James B. Upham, the magazine's marketer, as a campaign to instill the idea of American Nationalism in students and sell flags to public schools.
On June 29, 1892, Bellamy and Upham had arranged for Congress and President Benjamin Harrison to announce that the public school flag ceremony and the Pledge be the center of future Columbus Day Celebrations. The Pledge was first used in public schools on October 12, 1892 during Columbus Day. It also happened to be the same day as the opening of the "Chicago World's Fair" where the Pledge was said during its Flag Raising Ceremony.
In 1906, the Daughters of the American Revolution's Magazine had called their pledge the "Formula of Allegiance" which read:
"I Pledge allegiance to my flag, and the republic for which it stands. I Pledge my head and my heart to God and my country. One country, one language, on flag."
This was to be known as the "Old Pledge," while Bellamy's version would be known as the "New Pledge." The "Old Pledge" remained as the official one until the National Flag Conference established uniform flag procedures in 1923. During this conference, Bellamy's "New Pledge" was modified. "My Flag" was changed to "The Flag of the United States" so that immigrants would not confuse loyalties between their birth countries and the United States. The words "Of America" were added later that year.
The United States Congress officially recognized the Pledge for the first time on June 22, 1942 as:
"I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."
Louis Albert Bowman, a lawyer from Illinois was the first to initiate the addition of "under God" to the Pledge. The Daughters of the American Revolution gave him an "Award of Merit" as the originator of this idea. Bowman was the Chaplin in the Illinois branch of the "Sons of the American Revolution, a men's fraternal order. He stated that the words "under God" came from part of Lincoln's Gettysburg Address which said:
"that the Nation shall, under God have a new birth of Freedom."
Some transcripts of the speech do not show this, but Lincoln did say this according to the Historical Archives. Bowman repeated his revised version of the "New Pledge" at all subsequent meetings.
In 1951, the Knights of Columbus, the largest Catholic fraternal service organization started using "under God" in their "Pledge of Allegiance." On April 30, 1951, in New York City, the Board of Directors adopted it officially. Within 2 years the entire organization, nationwide was using it.
In 1952, President Truman after speaking with many religious leaders, decided to include "under God" just before "with liberty and justice."
On June 14, 1954 on Flag Day, President Eisenhower, a recently baptized Presbyterian, signed a bill that all children across the nation will pledge their dedication to our nation and our people to God.
On October 6, 1954 the National Executive Committee of the American Legion decided the "New Pledge of Allegiance" shall be recited in all meetings nationwide.
Swearing of the Pledge includes a "salute." In 1887, the Balch salute instructed children to stretch their right hand toward the Flag, the fingers are then brought to the forehead, followed by being placed flat over the heart, and then dropped to their side.
IN 1892, the Bellamy salute started with the right hand stretched to the Flag palm down, and ended with the palm up. With the similarity of the "Nazi" salute, the United States Congress declared that the appropriate salute would be that the right hand be placed over the heart for civilians during the Pledge of Allegiance and during the playing of the National Anthem. Official removal of the Bellamy salute happened on December 22, 1942 and amended the Flag Code Language into law on June 22, 1942. In 2008 and 2009, Congress stipulated that all active duty personnel and all veterans in civilian clothes are to render a proper hand salute during the raising and the lowering of the Flag and when the "Colors" are presented during the National Anthem.
Over the years there has been a great deal of criticism concerning the wording of the Pledge of Allegiance. Jehovah's Witnesses considered the Flag to be an "idol" and therefore declined to salute it. In 1940, it was ruled that they did not have to perform the Pledge, but in 1943 the ruling was reversed.
In 2002, the Supreme Court Case: "Elk Grove Unified School District vs Michael Newdow," an atheist, was ruled unconstitutional that his daughter be forced to say "under God." Since he was not the custodial parent,it was thrown out of court. On January 3, 2005 the judge ruled in favor of 3 "unnamed families" allowing their kids not to say "one Nation under God," thus giving families a choice. The Catholic and protestant churches were up in arms.
In 2006, Florida payed parents $32,500 for violating their 4th Amendment Rights of Freedom of Religion.
On March 11, 2010 during an appeals judgement of "Newdow vs Rio Linda School District" (guess he moved), in a 2-1 decision the court ruled that the words are a "ceremonial and patriotic nature" and did not constitute an establishment of religion. He lost again.
Currently, all states with the exception of New Hampshire, Hawaii, Iowa, Vermont, and Wyoming administer the Pledge of Allegiance daily in school classrooms. It may be conducted in the other states on a "voluntary" basis.
The final version of the Pledge which we use today is:
"I Pledge Allegiance to the Flag of the United State of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with Liberty and Justice for all."
The Pledge of Allegiance has gone through many changes over the years. I for one am "Proud to Pledge My Allegiance" Now and Forever!!! What say the brethren?
Gary "Colonel Klink" Klinke
John A. Sutter-Historian