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The Pledge of Allegiance Decisions
by
Lester S. Garrett


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A BRIEF HISTORY OF “THE PLEDGE”

The Pledge of Allegiance was written and published in 1892 by Francis Bellamy, a Baptist minister and socialist Christian, who omitted any religious reference from what was clearly a proud political statement.

In 1923-4, led by the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) and the American Legion, the National Flag Conference changed the phrase "my flag" to "the Flag of the United States of America."  They too left the Pledge religious-free.

Nearly a generation later the Pledge was codified by congress on 22 June 1942 (36 USC §172).  That was fully fifty years after it's first publication.  Yet those who supported its codification also saw no need to add any religious statement to a political act which was now officially endorsed by the federal government.  And that, despite being engaged in a world war which threatened this country's very existence.  As enacted in 1942 the text of the Pledge, which properly remained religiously mute, was all inclusive:  being offensive to neither the believer nor the atheist.

On Flag Day, 14 June 1954, sixty-two years after its creation, the phrase "under God" was added to the "Pledge".  But then that was only one of many curious actions which characterized "The McCarthy Era" of the 1950s.

THE FOUNDING “SHREDDERS”

Would the Liberty Committee's Executive Director, Kent Snyder, include James Madison (author of the Bill of Rights and in particular, its First Amendment), Thomas Jefferson, St. George Tucker and other founders among those who have "warped, shredded and outright ignored the Constitution of the United States"?  He really should you know.

In December 1784 Patrick Henry sponsored "A Bill establishing a provision for Teachers of the Christian Religion" in the Virginia General Assembly.  It stated in part:  "that for the support of Christian teachers. . . [a small tax] is hereby assessed, and shall be paid by every person chargeable with the said tax at the time the same shall become due. . .."

In response to the proposed legislation James Madison wrote his "Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments" [1785].  Speaking for the opposition, he stated that such a bill "if finally armed with the sanctions of a law, will be a dangerous abuse of power" and offered 15 reasons why they opposed the bill, among which were:

"Because we hold it for a fundamental and undeniable truth, ‘that religion or the duty which we owe to our Creator and the manner of discharging it, can be directed only by reason and conviction, not by force or violence.’  [Madison is quoting from The Virginia Declaration of Rights written by George Mason in 1776.]  The Religion then of every man must be left to the conviction and conscience of every man; and it is the right of every man to exercise it as these may dictate.  This right is in its nature an unalienable right.  It is unalienable, because the opinions of men, depending only on the evidence contemplated by their own minds cannot follow the dictates of other men. . ..  We maintain therefore that in matters of Religion, no man's right is abridged by the institution of Civil Society and that Religion is wholly exempt from its cognizance.. . .

"Because Religion be exempt from the authority of the Society at large, still less can it be subject to that of the Legislative Body.. . .  The preservation of a free Government requires not merely, that the metes and bounds which separate each department of power be invariably maintained; but more especially that neither of them be suffered to overleap the great Barrier which defends the rights of the people.

"Because it is proper to take alarm at the first experiment on our liberties.. . .  Who does not see that the same authority which can establish Christianity, in exclusion of all other Religions, may establish with the same ease any particular sect of Christians, in exclusion of all other Sects? that the same authority which can force a citizen to contribute three pence only of his property for the support of any one establishment, may force him to conform to any other establishment in all cases whatsoever?  [The allusion is to the 3 penny tax on tea which preceded the American Revolution.]

"Because the Bill implies either that the Civil Magistrate is a competent Judge of Religious Truth; or that he may employ Religion as an engine of Civil policy.  The first is an arrogant pretension falsified by the contradictory opinions of Rulers in all ages, and throughout the world: the second an unhallowed perversion of the means of salvation.

"Because the establishment [my emphasis] proposed by the Bill is not requisite for the support of the Christian Religion.. . .

"Because the establishment in question is not necessary for the support of Civil Government.. . .  If Religion be not within the cognizance of Civil Government how can its legal establishment be necessary to Civil Government?  [Emphasis added.]

"Because the proposed establishment [my emphasis] is a departure from the generous policy, which, offering an Asylum to the persecuted and oppressed of every Nation and Religion, promised a lustre to our country, and an accession to the number of its citizens.  What a melancholy mark is the Bill of sudden degeneracy?  Instead of holding forth an Asylum to the persecuted, it is itself a signal of persecution.  It degrades from the equal rank of Citizens all those whose opinions in Religion do not bend to those of the Legislative authority.. . .

"Because it will destroy that moderation and harmony which the forbearance of our laws to intermeddle with Religion has produced among its several sects.  [Note again the reference to Religion per se, not to Christianity nor to any particular religion.]"

As emphasized above a bill which was intended to provide funding for teachers of the Christian Religion -- not to any one particular sect of Christianity -- is repeatedly characterized by the future ‘Father of the Constitution’ and its Bill of Rights as an "establishment".

Some four years later Madison would choose the phrase "an establishment of religion", and NOT an establishment of ‘a’ religion for the First Amendment's establishment clause.  The distinction is important.  And an attentive reading of history makes it clear that Madison chose his words deliberatly.

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