Should "under God" remain in the pledge of allegiance in public schools?


Fact Box

  • May 9, 2014 - The Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts ruled that the Pledge of Allegiance does not discriminate against atheists [1], saying that the words 'under God' represent a patriotic, not a religious, exercise [2].
  • In all, 32 states have laws or guidelines that specifically say students can opt-out of the pledge on their own. Another 15 states have statutes that are unclear, delegate the choice to local schools or parents, or seem to indicate students must take the pledge [3]. And three states (Iowa, Vermont and Wyoming) don’t have state pledge laws (Bomboy, 2019).
  • It was originally written by Francis Bellamy [4] in 1892 but finally adapted for the United States in 1923 (“The Pledge of Allegiance,” n.d.).
  • The words “Under God” were first used at internal meetings of the Knights of Columbus in 1951. The Knights’ political lobbying [5] lead to a nationwide addition. 
  • President Eisenhower added the words “under God” [6] during the Communist uprising of 1954; the recitation is exactly as we use it today.

Marie (Yes)

The Pledge of Allegiance has been a part of American history since the early 1900s, a staple in public school routines, and a salute to our nation. With the recent trends of political change and religious unrest, there is opposition to this religious phrase. Even with America as the great melting pot, the phrase “under God” should be left as a tribute to our nation’s foundation in theology and patriotism. 

America was founded on the belief of a higher power and a moral code to which we abide by as upstanding citizens. Because the founding fathers worked out of the Christian worldview, the Declaration of Independence is based on that religious framework. The influential document [1] references “Nature’s God” and “their Creator,” which integrates sound theological perspectives with an authority that gives citizens the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. It is not necessarily pointing to any specific Christian doctrine of God by providing citizens with this foundation of equal worth “under God.” These words point to a Being who increases the intrinsic value of citizens since a citizen’s value transcends even government. This can be taken as a symbol of religious inclusivity for all Americans. 

The Pledge of Allegiance is a daily occurrence in public schools. For the benefit of a child, it is essential to learn the backstory of American history. To strip an original document of its history is a travesty to learning. Even though it is a part of the routine in public schools, a child can always opt-out of reciting the words or bringing another interpretation to their own religion. With the First Amendment, any child should be able to express their own faith as they see fit. With this in mind, there is no need to alter the Pledge of Allegiance. 

Rida (No)

The first use of the words “Under God” was in 1951 at internal meetings of the Knights of Columbus, one of the world’s largest catholic organizations [1]. They lobbied to have it added to the official pledge and succeeded in 1954 [2]. The Christian origin of these words proves its irrelevance to ALL Americans. These words effectively alienate Americans who believe in multiple gods, no God, or a God different from the Christian God. In fact, as children growing up with a different religion at home, having to say “Under God” every day can lead to a feeling of disenfranchisement.

There have been countless reports of bullying and social castration in cases where children have refused to say the pledge [3], so the argument of it being a choice is moot. Most public schools do not even indicate that the pledge is optional, so how would kids know any better?

Those who argue that the words “Under God” are patriotic should understand that “once patriotism becomes rote and unthinking, it’s not really patriotism — it’s robotic.” (Kent Greenfield, Boston College Law School). Do we need patriotism as a forced routine? Moreover, do we want children from different religious backgrounds to feel less patriotic than their Christian peers?

These words are often applauded as a homage to American history; however, most of history can and should be taught in classrooms without having to force words upon children.

In conclusion: “No child should go to school each day to have the class declare that her religious beliefs are wrong in an exercise that portrays her and her family as less patriotic than believers.” (David Noise, President of the American Humanist Association)

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