Flag of the United States at the Flint Hills Discovery Center in Manhattan, KS/Public Domain Image

American History Lessons: The Pledge of Allegiance

By Brien Pittman

You often hear many on the political right claim that our country was founded on Christianity. They’ll use our Pledge of Allegiance as “proof” that this nation was founded as a Christian nation. Many of them put bumper stickers on their vehicles that say “One Nation Under GOD!” or emphasize the word “God” when they recite our nation’s pledge. It all sounds great, except—our pledge wasn’t written until 1892.

Yes, you read that correctly. Our Pledge of Allegiance was written a full 116 years after the Revolutionary War and Declaration of Independence.

The phrase “Under God” wasn’t even in the original text of our pledge: “I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

Hold on to your seats Conservative Christians because the author of our pledge was Francis Bellamy, a Christian socialist.

He stood for workers’ rights and believed in an equal distribution of economic resources. He believed in the nationalization of certain industries because he feared their manipulation and corruption in the hands of a private sector, which would put profits before people. A Christian Minister wrote the pledge, didn’t include the word “God” or “Christian” and he was a socialist.

I’m sure by now if any conservatives are reading this they will have already decided I’m making all of this up. But it gets better — there’s so much more.

In 1923, more text was added to our pledge: “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.” So, 31 years after its origination, our pledge still didn’t contain the phrase “under God.” In fact, it wasn’t until 1954 that the phrase “under God” was actually added to our pledge, in response to the threat of communism. “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.”

I can already hear people, in between screams of outrage, say, “But—our currency has “’In God We Trust’” written on it! It’s our nation’s motto!”

That’s true, it does and it is. But “In God We Trust” didn’t appear on any currency until 1864. In fact, the motto “In God We Trust” wasn’t even adopted into this country officially until 1956 and didn’t appear on our paper currency until 1957. Up to that point it was only on our coins.

Let’s not forget that the only reference to religion in our Bill of Rights is in our First Amendment, which states: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

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About Brien Pittman

Brien’s articles for FāVS generally revolve around ideas and beliefs that create unhealthy deadlock divisions between groups. He has received (minor) writing awards for his short stories and poetry from the cities of Portland, Oregon and the city of (good beer) Sapporo, Japan. In 2010 he was asked to present several articles for the California Senate Committee “Task Force for Suicide Prevention” and has been published by online magazines and a couple national poetry anthologies in print form.

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