4.23.2014

A Truth Glasses Look at Pledging Allegiance -- Why so Controversial?

An excerpt from the September 8, 1892 Youth's ...
An excerpt from the September 8, 1892 Youth's Companion with the original Pledge of Allegiance (the full page is available from firstmention.com/Documents/pledge1.jpg ) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
            Recently, while scanning through the headlines, my eyes came across yet another story, where a school system is being sued over the words, “under God” in the pledge of allegiance and while many persons cite a variety of reasons as to why or why not to state those words, few understand the historical value of why the pledge was written in the first place.  School districts within New Jersey, Massachusetts, Florida and others are no strangers to these lawsuits, some citing discrimination, others citing religious freedom references and still others stating separation of church and state violations.  Our readers know those frivolous lawsuits, or those that contain less merit than bitching, are full of sensationalism and some valid as well as non valid points.  In my days of primary education, saying the pledge was a daily event and not once did any of our parents say anything like what is being spewed out by some of the citizen base currently, that doesn't mean they didn't have concerns, it meant that our parents back then didn't place a priority on the pledge itself, it was much more about doing well.  Along the readings of these stories, was posed the question, is the controversy worth its weight or are people losing sight of the original intent of its writer, with truth glasses on and as astute approach, we open our minds and go exploring into the pledge of allegiance.


HISTORY IS MADE
   
English: American students pledging to the fla...
English: American students pledging to the flag in a former form of the salute, specifically the Bellamy salute . (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
         Settling within the many historical documents, resides our pledge of allegiance, one that in its earliest forms was not just for the United States, but its author, Francis Bellamy (1855-1931) had written it in the hopes it would be used in several countries.  The original piece written in 1892 looked like this: “I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic, for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”  Mr. Bellamy was a Baptist socialist minister and had that pledge published in September of 1892 which could be read in “The youth’s companion”, a fairly popular publication, the ‘reader’s digest’ of its time. The original pledge was described by Mr. Bellamy in that publication: “At a signal from the Principal the pupils, in ordered ranks, hands to the side, face the Flag.  Another signal is given; every pupil gives the Flag a military salute – the right hand lifted, palm downward, to a line with the forehead and close to it.  Standing thus, all repeat together “I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic, for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all”.   At the words, to my Flag, the right hand is extended gracefully, palm upward, toward the Flag and remains in this gesture till the end of the affirmation; where upon all hands immediately drop to the side.” 
      
      In 1923, the words, “of the United States of America” was added to the original pledge, the “new” pledge would read: “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.”  Not long after this rendition, the United States experienced a change, one that was influenced by World War II. The change was to alter the original salute as it resembled the Nazi regime’s salute, which naturally, this salute didn’t favor too well with the then citizens.  In 1954, under objection from Bellamy’s daughter, President Eisenhower, encouraged congress to add the words “under God” as a response measure to the communist threat of that time and thus, the 31 word “newer” pledge was born, it reads, “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.”
            Mr. Bellamy originally was expressing some of the ideas of his cousin, Edward, who had authored two books, Looking Backward and Equality.  In 1892, Francis Bellamy was the chairman of the committee of state superintendents of Education, in the National Education Association and as its chairman; he prepared the quadricentenial celebration (400 year) for Columbus Day, he structured this public school program around a Flag raising ceremony and salute, his “pledge” of allegiance.  Mr. Bellamy, put delicate and meticulous thought into his pledge and in his notes, wrote: “It began as an intensive communing with salient points of our national history, from the Declaration of Independence onwards; with the makings of the Constitution…with the meaning of the Civil War; with the aspiration of the people…The true reason for allegiance to the Flag is the ‘republic for which it stands’…and what does that vast thing, the Republic mean?  It is the concise political word for the Nation – The One Nation which the Civil War was fought to prove.  To make that One Nation idea clear, we must specify that it is indivisible, as Webster and Lincoln used to repeat in their great speeches.  (And its future)… Just here arose the temptation of the historic slogan of the French Revolution which meant so much to Jefferson and his friends, ‘Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity’.  No, that would be too fanciful, too many thousands of years off in realization.  But we as a Nation do stand square on the doctrine of liberty and justice for all.”
            With all these thoughts, all the new words added and changes made, the only protest coming from Bellamy’s daughter, the current form of our pledge has had many longstanding debates about its wording and how it applies to our Nation today.  If we look at the earliest of history, our citizen base upheld the words “under God” when a way of life, known as communism and Nazism, in fluxed and influenced our thinking, including the salute.  I have tried to imagine, what other thoughts were present at the time the pledge was written, certainly for citizens and Bellamy, the Civil War and World War I along with other worldly events had deep impact; a nation trying to continue to establish itself among the many nations of the world, a pledge with such resounding qualities, who was to know that it would bring controversy and a sense of pride.  60 years after adding “under God”, renewed debates have come forward, to dispute that which President Eisenhower had inserted and what Bellamy had originally intended, a short writing that basically means one will support and be true to the country where they reside.  Food for thought: No pledge changes could be made without presidential consent, this as part of the “Flag Code” established very early in our nation.
DEBATING INTO THE PRESENT
            So far, looking at the outline of our history, the only known debates were 
against the original stance that one took when reciting the pledge and a protest by the daughter of the famous pledge’s author, citing only that the new wording did not uphold the original works presented, that is, that it did not reflect her father’s principles for writing the piece in the first place (that being meant for all nations) keep in mind at no time was the pledge itself contested, until her complaints some 62 years after it was written (1892-1954) over “under God”, a question I pondered, if Mr. Bellamy was alive when this change took place, would a Baptist Minister uphold those words or would he be as dismissive as his own daughter. 
        
English: Pledge of Allegiance marker on the Al...
English: Pledge of Allegiance marker on the Allegheny County Courthouse in Pittsburgh 40°26′18.56″N 79°59′46.17″W  /  °S °W  / ; latd>90 (dms format) in latd latm lats longm longs (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
    Our first look takes place in Indiana (2004), where a Muslim family, whose child (ren) was allegedly treated badly* by the school and other students, when they refused to stand for the pledge during an event and to play the national anthem in band; one which sent the students to the principal’s office and the parents were told, “your child (ren) will be removed from any event which they refuse to recite the pledge or play our nation's anthem.”  One of the students was 18 years old, a female; her parents are Muslim-American citizens and live freely as US Citizens within the country, the basis of the suit, suffrage attained by NOT participating due to religious views, a discrimination complaint.  *were shouted at using racial slurs, omitted from participation of school events
            In a statement, the Father said this, “Participating in the Pledge of Allegiance or the Star Spangled Banner ceremonies would not be honoring the creeds and principles of our forefathers.  As Moorish Moslems, our allegiance is to ALLAH…It will be a clear and hypocritical rejection of our Islamic faith and our Moorish nationality if we pledge allegiance to a flag out of fear that if we do not, the very ‘liberty and justice for all’ which is purported in the pledge shall be denied to us.”  Once my eyes, read that statement, all kinds of “no, no, no you’re doing it all wrong” came straight to the forefront of my brain, I read the statement several times, trying to wrap the logic in a nice tidy package, however, all attempts show flaws.  For instance, by participating in the pledge of allegiance, one is in fact supporting the founders of its principle, not necessarily of the founding fathers, by the way, those founding fathers were a God fearing people and had religion well in tow upon independence, and George Washington attended several churches, being baptized in the Church of England.
            At this families own admittance, they are Moorish Muslem-Americans, who by chance practice that religion, in America as citizens freely and yes, their religion does focus on ALLAH, but the basis for justice and liberty we founded our country on, gave them the right to do so here, and by not participating in this pledge, a normal ‘national’ function of its entire citizen base, whose only ‘flaw’ being cited is two words and how it affects their own religious view; In summation, aren't they are denouncing the United States any allegiance, even though we as a Nation (which includes several other nationalities) voted to allow those same freedoms and give them that citizenry, if it sounds a bit contradictory, I agree and thankfully we live in a country that places no pressure on one’s right to practice whatever religion they choose, although, it does sadden me a bit, that since our 2001 event, we as a nation have focused our eyes on backgrounds and person and stopped freely accepting into our melting pot.
Quick Facts:  Prior to Under God clause - 1942 The US Government ‘officially’ recognizes the pledge; 1943 West Virginia Supreme Court rules requiring a person to recite pledge are a violation of the first and fourteenth amendments; 1954 Eisenhower adds Under God to pledge; After Under God clause - 1988 Dr. Newdow files a lawsuit to have the words, ‘under God’ removed from pledge in Florida, suit dismissed for lack of standing and again in 2005 in California; 2009 the 11th US Court of Appeals rules that upon written parental request, children can be excused from reciting the pledge; 2012 Michigan gives freedom to all students to recite pledge.
            Our first example shows a citizen claiming discrimination due to the pledge, because of their own faith views, an expected debate for many who are setting aside the other 29 words of the pledge itself, but religious views are not the only item in focus.  Our next example will move forward to 2009 and a brilliant young student, Will Phillips, again pledging would become a focus, this time with a twist, the youngster had an open and frank discussion of whether or not it was against the law to not stand for the pledge.  The debate within this story lies within the fact that Will’s family is also a Gay and Lesbian right supporter, of equal marriage rights and Will an aspiring lawyer sees no ‘justice and liberty for all’ when a country would purportedly not allow the equality of union, regardless of sexual preference, had racism and sexism and thus this lead to his refusal to stand in order to recite the pledge.  Naturally one can expect that the teasing and name calling of this student would ensue, including the week long no standing event that eventually came to a head and started this action, by the way, our young patriot aspiring lawyer is not homosexual and very well mannered, he raised a valid point, if these actions toward each other are going on, then there is no liberty and justice for all.  The teacher admitted to knowing the student had the right to not stand, but, the argument went on, and soon through the magic of Twitter and the national Media, Will’s quest was spotlighted, his blog grew exponentially and the voice of one who will not pledge, because it does not represent our country, has been heard.
            We have two examples of controversy within the pledge of ‘modern’ day history, one of past history, focused upon “under God” and “liberty and justice for all”, each citing completely different approaches, each with a sense of validity only because they reflect principles our country was founded upon and is diversifying into, but does the pledge warrant such controversial attention?  Again, looking back at it historically, a statement to uphold and be loyal or true to one’s country has evolved into a religious and humanitarian debate platform, but what about citizens who do not recognize ‘God’, would such a simple pledge affect them, the answer is a resounding yes, the reason, a violation of ‘religion’ and patriotism.  Freehold, New Jersey
(2014), a family is suing the superintendent and the school district to have the words “under God” removed from the pledge, the reason, the practicing of acknowledging God, discriminates against atheists, citing the New Jersey constitution as the reason it does.
            The family who does not wish to be recognized and only thus far known as John and Jane Doe, claim within the suit (with the help of the American Humanist Association),  that it reinforces prejudice against atheists and humanists and it “publicly disparages plaintiff’s religious beliefs, calls plaintiff’s patriotism into question, portrays plaintiff’s as outsiders and second class citizens, and forces the children to choose between non-participation in a patriotic exercise or participation in a patriotic exercise that is invidious to him and his religious class.”  Let’s reflect upon those 31 words, once again, “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 must apologize, because in my own opinion, nowhere in the pledge, is a citizen denouncing their own religious views of what God is, nor is it forcing anyone to state they are a patriot or not directly, nor do I see anywhere that this pledge will make one citizen better than any other who choose not to say it and many citizen’s will agree that other than equality in the work force or in equal rights in marriage no one here is stating by taking this pledge that is has anything to do with any ‘class’ of person, it does focus upon a nation, which includes every person, and if it were to become as Mr. Bellamy had hoped, nation would include those who may have adopted it, or more exact, insert ‘nation’ here.  At this point, I want to pop the thought into play about how these lawsuits, if conclusively won, will affect those who happen to support the opposite ideals, those who sons or daughters were brought up tying all things to God and believe that the removal of those words would violate their right to show affirmation (in a sense) to God AND Nation.  Food for thought:  The suit cites a disparity of religious beliefs against atheists, technically there is no ‘religion’ in atheism, only an acknowledgement of a deity, no worshiping allowed. 
            The last subject to cover, is does the pledge take into account the separation of church and state, inferring that it is a religious statement.  In order to understand this concept, we must first look at what separation of church and state actually means; in a secular society, it means religion has no bearing on the way laws are made and the government cannot decide what religion you can practice.  Simply, a principle where the government must maintain an attitude of neutrality when it comes to government views on religion; a first amendment reference likened to a letter from Jefferson and as most historical principles will, the phrase, separation of church and state, has been taken out of context.  October of 1801, the Baptist association of Connecticut, sent a letter to Jefferson expressing concern that the first amendment implied that freedom of religion was a gift from the government and not an inevitable right, President Jefferson hastily dismissed it by stating that in his opinion, the Constitution respected natural rights and did not permit the government to interfere in matters of religion at all, so where does the phrase come from, the Supreme Court and President Jefferson.
            “Believing with you that religion is a matter that lies solely between man and his God; that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship; that the legislative powers of government reach actions only and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should ‘make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof’ thus building a wall of separation of Church and State.” ~ Thomas Jefferson
            “The first amendment has erected a wall between Church and State.  That wall must be kept impregnable and high.  We could not approve the slightest breach.” ~ Supreme Court Everson vs. Board of Education; reason transportation to catholic schools by  ‘state’ run transportation program literally using the 14th amendment as the incorporator of the first amendment which includes states.
            As we can see, the phrase separation of church and state refers to the Constitution and upholds the principles of freedom of religion (first amendment) and that no government can make a law establishing one or prohibiting one (fourteenth amendment, states included).  Food for thought, all state run churches were gone by 1833, the exact phrase appears nowhere in our constitution, only in political letters and in supreme court declarations, it has nothing to do with recognizing a religious practice in schools, although many debates would come from the phrase, in actuality, none have ideological bearing nor foundation and only because it includes state governments, which finances most school systems with monies not already provided by the Federal government and the words “under God” are put to the test.  When we apply freedom of religion, to the pledge of allegiance, it in no way refers to any religious preference and simply upholds principles of unity (indivisible) and basic equality (liberty and justice for all) to a country (the Flag) from the person expressing those principles (the pledge). 
            This challenge occurred in California, in 2010, when a divided court ruled that the pledge does not violate the Constitutional prohibition of state mandated religious exercise even though it contains the phrase “one nation under God”.  The other focus within this battle, those same folks mentioned earlier in our example whom are working with the Humanists Association, they too are claiming a constitutional violation of the first amendment by referencing separation of church and state in their many papers being filed in court, how ironic, no ‘religion’ just a recognition of a deity and the pledge can be challenged on a religious premise, I guess practicing no religion is a religion, who would have thought it?  I cannot help but wonder, along with those persons being represented by attorneys, if the attorneys themselves realize the context of that law, that prohibits and upholds, religion, are they serious about thinking that the pledge of allegiance, so labeled as such, is actually a prayer, are they citing the basis of the pledge or are they contesting “under God” which was added, 12 years after the official recognition and around 60 years after its original inception.
            In conclusion, I must question why is there so much controversy within this simple, 31 word statement, have we as a society, lost the principles of our “pursuit of happiness” or are we way over focused on a pseudo-religious reference, keep in mind, the pledge does not say, “one nation under the God of Baptists, Catholics, Buddhists, Muslim nor does it say, ALLAH, Jehovah, Jesus, the Great I am, Alpha, Omega or any other specificity, even atheists should appreciate that, as a Deity, can also be “God-like”.  In our own concepts of liberty and justice for all, do we not have common grounds to build upon, isn't this why we have looked at laws and worked to make new ones and ratify existent ones that are “of the people and for the people”.  Why must we be so trivial, as to what a simple pledge means to the individual and make that the focus of the many, I for one have said it many times with a sense of pride and knowing that if my country needed my help, I have and will gladly provide it, with allegiance to those who would uphold the same ideals.  “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.”  Food for thought: Indivisible – Revolutionary War, Civil War, World War I & II, September 11, 2001, remember those?  Truth Glasses down, good day.

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