“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.” These are the words that many children across the nation would recognize as part of their every day, morning routine in the classroom. Generation after generation have grown up reciting the Pledge of Allegiance which is now facing some serious accusations; religious discrimination, unconstitutional content and claiming that it is ostracizing some students, are just a few of the arguments in favor of banning the Pledge from schools nationwide. Due to four simple words, ‘one nation under God,’ children face the harsh reality of starting their mornings without reciting this legendary verse. It is our duty as Americans to realize that the Pledge of Allegiance is not unconstitutional or an accurate example of religious discrimination and should be kept in our schools. In this way we can help preserve the patriotic verse and continue to allow it to be an important childhood tradition.
At a Flag Day speech in 1954, Eisenhower elaborated on his feelings about the place of religion in public life when he discussed why he had wanted to include “under God” in the pledge of allegiance, “In this way we are reaffirming the transcendence of religious faith in America’s heritage and future; in this way we shall constantly strengthen those spiritual weapons which forever will be our country’s most powerful resource in peace and in war” (President Eisenhower signs “In God We Trust”
into law). In 1956, President Eisenhower signed the words, ‘one nation under God’ into law as the nation’s official motto, just two years after having the phrase inserted into the Pledge of Allegiance. Ever since this addition, its given reason to some to deem the pledge unconstitutional. As Americans with a country founded on the principle of Christianity, it seems almost preposterous that after 238 years some are now fighting to strip the nation of the very foundation it was built on. Contrary to popular beliefs, one of the Framers first orders of business after establishing our Nation’s government, was to circulate English bibles to all of the schools and homes in America. This may be exactly why the Constitution protects the people from government rule under the power of the “church” like that of England, yet the words “separation of church and state” are not found in our Nation’s Constitution (Religion and the Founding of the American Public).
Upon colonization of the New World in 1607, there was already diversity in religion such as Catholic, Protestant and in later years Mormons, Quakers, Jewish, Roman Catholic and so on. This could also be why even the founding fathers had diversity among them when it came to religion. According to Library of Congress, Thomas Jefferson was orthodox Christian whereas, in the outline for his book The Doctrine to be Preached, Benjamin Franklin completely abandoned his earlier concept of God and instead fully embraced a single God whom he identified as the “Father of the Universe” (Religion and the Founding of the American Republic). John Adams was Protestant and Eisenhower, who made the decision to insert the famous words, “One Nation under God” into the pledge in 1956, was raised a Mennonite and later became Presbyterian. Although Eisenhower embraced religion, it was never his intention to force his beliefs on anyone. In fact, the chapel-like structure on the grounds of his presidential library where he and his wife are buried, is called “Place of Meditation” and is intentionally inter-denominational (President Eisenhower signs “In God We Trust” into law). To assume that these
men, all born of and practiced such diverse beliefs, would have had any intention to create a nation in which the underlying assumption of Christianity would be used to discriminate and divide our nation, would be illogical, yet some still disapprove of the Pledge. Some still claim religious discrimination; but what exactly does the word “God” mean? Webster’s dictionary defines the word “God” as follows, in Christianity and other monotheistic religions, “The creator and ruler of the universe and source of all moral authority; the supreme being. (In certain other religions), “A superhuman being or spirit worshiped as having power over nature or human fortunes; a deity.” It also says that “God” can mean an adored, admired or influential person (Merriam-Webster). There is no mention of Jesus, Buddha, Allah etc in the pledge, the phrase is only, “One nation under God”. It is in the way we interoperate the word, “God” that chooses its meaning, so how could this be meant as a gesture of discrimination? Ultimately, “One Nation under God” could mean many different things and does to many different cultures and religions. It does not directly tie any given faith or religion to the word. For each of our Framers and the national influences that followed, God meant something different. Together they helped form our Nation with the underlying basis of Christianity and united as leaders to uphold that belief, even as some acquired their political standing centuries apart.
Still to some, the fact that our Nation was founded on Christianity may be a little hazy. The definition of Christianity is, “the religion based on the teachings of Jesus Christ” but exactly how many denominations does that entail (Merriam-Webster)? According to Pew Research Center, Religion and Public Life in 2014, 70.6% of Americans were actively practicing a Christian based religion in the United States with only 5.9% practicing Non-Christian faiths and 22.8% who are not affiliated with any church or religious community, this includes: Atheists, Agnostic and the “nothing in particular” groups. This means that the majority of our Nation’s practices and identifies with some form of the Christian
faith, so why isn’t the majority ruling? The answer to that question may be found in the dwindling numbers of participation in religion from generation to generation. Just as comparing the popularity of Christian and Non-Christian faiths, Pew Research Center also compared participation in each religion over the course of various decades and the results were drastic. They showed the rapid decline of religion in general going from 85% in 1926-1945, to only 65% in 1990-1996 of Americans who were actually practicing a Christian faith. With the decline in Christianity, there was also a jump in the number of unaffiliated or those not practicing any form of religion from 11% in 1923-1945 to 36% in 1990-1996 (Pew Research Center, Religion and Public Life). Although these changes are drastic, the time periods and world events during them, play a huge role such as the recovery from the Great Depression, WWI, and the beginning of WWII. Could the jump within the unaffiliated group be responsible for the crisis with our Pledge? The answer is unclear, what is for certain is that currently nearly 80% of our population identifies with the Christian faith so if the argument is discrimination who are we really discriminating against if the majority of the U.S. practices the Christian faith in some form or fashion?
As Americans who celebrate the fourth of July, remove our hats at the sound of the National Anthem and fly the American flag outside of office buildings, churches, on the bumper of our cars and even in our front lawns, why the pull to eliminate just another patriotic symbol? It is not a prayer or scripture. It is a simple pledge of faith, loyalty and understanding of what as a nation, we represent. By eliminating this patriotic symbol simply because we are afraid to offend someone, regardless of the majority’s beliefs, America the Brave fails to uphold her name. Our nation’s obsession with being politically correct has caused us to abandon the principles of which it stands on. If we teach our children that when something isn’t the way they want it, that it can simply be made to disappear, we will have succeeded in creating a generation of the spoiled and expectant, not to mention having succeeded in eliminating one of the most patriotic verses in history.
The simple fact of the matter, besides the history and crunching the numbers, is that children are not being forced to stand with the class and say the Pledge. If certain students feel as if the Pledge is insulting or against their beliefs, they could simply, “opt out”. By encouraging students who do not feel comfortable with reciting the Pledge to simply not participate, teachers and staff can work together to cater to the individual needs of students. Another possible solution would be to reduce the number of times the Pledge is recited in schools. Instead of every morning in class, school systems could make it only on Monday mornings. Schools could also put in place a ten minute late start for that morning for students who are truly offended by the Pledge. This would help place a buffer between the two arguments to this issue, better catering to the students who do not want to participate and also catering to the students who identify with the Pledge. By offering them a way to “opt out” to participate in a late start and to reduce the amount of exposure students have to the Pledge, parents, students and schools may be able to find a middle ground in order to preserve this vital tradition.
For Americans so enthusiastic about the nation we live in, instead of picking her apart and ridding her of an essential tool for Nationalism and homeland pride in which the majority of the nation identifies with, it is our job to accept and love her wholeheartedly. It is our responsibility to realize that the term “God” means a lot of different things to a lot of different people and to give justice to the principles that the founding fathers fought so hard alongside countless others, to obtain. It is America’s duty to stay loyal to the United States, no matter if the pledge includes the words, “one nation under God”, or not. Removing the Pledge of Allegiance from schools entirely, is not the answer to this great controversy and according to CNN’s U.S. Edition, with the exception of one court ruling, the Pledge has been found to be simply patriotic and not that of religious discrimination (Pledge of Allegiance Fast Facts). Americans should want to encourage embracing the country’s heritage and respect the decisions made by the leaders of their country, such as Eisenhower’s decision to include “One Nation under God” in our Pledge and as our Country’s motto. Americans need to fight for the Pledge, to keep it in schools and to continue to allow it to be a part of future generation’s upbringing and tradition as it has been for the last 59 years. Not only should Americans fight for the Pledge but also for the abolishment of the movement of political correctness. If there is no reform on these matters, it won’t be long before America no longer stand for anything as a Nation. Religious discrimination does not come from the Pledge of Allegiance or its meaning, but it is something that is created and silenced, in our hearts.
“Christianity.” Merriam Webster. 2015. Web. 28 Oct. 2015.
“God.” Merriam Webster. 2015. Web. 28 Oct. 2015.
How ‘One Nation’ Didn’t Become ‘Under God’ Until The ’50s Religious Revival. npr Books, 30 Mar. 2015. Web. 1 Oct 2015.
Pew Research Center, Religion and Public Life. Pew Research Center, 2015. Web. 2 Oct. 2015.
“Pledge of Allegiance Fast Facts.” CNN. CNN U.S. Edition, 26 Apr. 2015. Web. 5 Oct. 2015.
“President Eisenhower signs “In God We Trust” into law.” History. A&E Television Networks, 2009. Web. 28 Oct. 2015.
Religion and the Founding of the American Republic. Library of Congress, n.d. Web. 2 Oct. 2015.
World Religions: The U.S. Religious “Pie”. Beliefnet, 2015. Web. 2 Oct 17, 2015.