Sunday, November 13, 2016

The Pledge of Allegiance

"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."

Recited by school children across our nation since 1892 (as amended in 1923 and 1954), the Pledge of Allegiance serves as a reminder to each child and citizen of our individual duty to appreciate and uphold our constitutional republic, and of our mutual obligation to treat each other with civility and respect, without regard to any political, racial, religious or cultural differences. What is the meaning of the Pledge?

I pledge”… similar to an oath, a pledge is a solemn promise and undertaking in which we vow to do something, which may require personal sacrifice.

allegiance” … is an expression of loyalty and commitment to a union of citizens and to a cause greater than ourselves.

to the flag of the United States of America” … with its thirteen red and white stripes representing the original colonies of the American revolution, and fifty white stars on the blue chief representing all of the states of the union, the flag is a symbol of our national heritage. Whether carried into battle, flown above the Whitehouse, the U.S. Capitol, or our own home’s front porch, the flag is an emblem of our patriotism, devotion to our country and to equality & liberty.

and to the republic for which it stands”… on September 17, 1787 the framers of our government established a democratic republic under the Constitution of the United States of America based upon the consent of the governed (“We the People”), with a separation of powers and checks and balances in order “to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity…” (Preamble). Our loyalty to the Constitution should be placed above politics, parties, and individual leaders.

one nation” … as George Washington stated, “It is of infinite moment that you should properly estimate the immense value of your national Union to your collective and individual happiness; that you should cherish a cordial, habitual, and immovable attachment to it; accustoming yourselves to think and speak of it as the Palladium of your political safety and prosperity…” (Farewell Address).

under God”… our national unity is secured by the principle that we have each been endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable rights and that these liberties cannot be secure without “a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are of the gift of God…” (Thomas Jefferson).

indivisible” … the Constitution was designed to create a perpetual union of citizens and states. We must remember that a bloody civil war ensued and was fought when the nation allowed division to prevail.

with liberty and justice for all”… both civil and religious liberty are the inheritance of all Americans. Justice endures when founded upon virtue and honesty. Our nation’s laws and courts seek to establish and uphold fairness and truth, respectively, but cannot do so without individual integrity.

On June 14, 1954 (Flag Day), President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed into law the revised pledge bill passed by Congress, officially adding the words "under God" into the Pledge of Allegiance, and told the nation:

“From this day forward, the millions of our school children will daily proclaim in every city and town, every village and rural school house, the dedication of our nation and our people to the Almighty. To anyone who truly loves America, nothing could be more inspiring than to contemplate this rededication of our youth, on each school morning, to our country's true meaning … 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 or in war.[1]

[1] Dwight D. Eisenhower: "Statement by the President Upon Signing Bill To Include the Words "Under God" in the Pledge to the Flag," The American Presidency Project, June 14, 1954.

Note: On November 12, 2010, in a unanimous decision[2], the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit in Boston affirmed a ruling by a New Hampshire lower federal court which found that the pledge's reference to God does not violate non-pledging students' rights if student participation in the pledge is voluntary.[3]  A United States Supreme Court appeal of this decision was denied on June 13, 2011.[4]

[2] Freedom from Religion Foundation v. Hanover School District (1st Cir. Nov 12, 2010). 

[3] Lavoie, Denise (November 15, 2010). "Court OKs NH law allowing 'God' pledge inschools". Boston Globe. Boston, MA: Christopher M. Mayer. Retrieved 2010-11-16. The constitutionality of a New Hampshire law

[4] Supreme Court of the United States (June 13, 2011). "Freedom From Religion Foundation, Petitioner v.United States, et al.". Supreme Court of the United States. Retrieved 2011-06-15.