The Pledge of Allegiance: A Remarkable Story

Katie Baker  ·  November 11, 2016  ·  Faith/Family

By Marcia Katie Stowe Baker - TapWires News

OK ... so I was looking for the correct punctuation for a blog I was posting on the "Pledge of Allegiance" and when I placed these words into the Google Search engine, the picture below appeared. I was appalled to see that "under God" had been omitted from the quoted pledge.

I felt an intense anger begin to rise inside my entire being when I saw they had made this omission and so I clicked the hyperlink to see what this heretofore unimaginable omission was all about. 

From this Wikipedia article and various other internet pages I learned the history of the Pledge of Allegiance, which I am ashamed to say, I had never studied before today. I can remember learning the Pledge of Allegiance in our Sunday School classes long before I entered the Florida public school system.  However, I don’t recall that we were ever taught in Sunday School, public school, or even in the Girl Scouts anything about the history of the Pledge that each of us have memorized. 

The original pledge, “The Salutation of the Flag,” was written by George Beall Balch, an admiral in the United States Navy who served in both the Mexican-American War and the American Civil War and later served as auditor of the New York Board of Education.  It was his love for the education of the children in America that he wrote:

“In 1887 and 1888, as a result of more than a year’s study of the ‘tenement house system’ of this city, my attention was turned to the subject of public education.  While investigating some aspects of this subject my mind was unexpectedly directed to that form of education for American citizenship, which refers more particularly to the various relations of the child to the town, to the state, and the nation.  It was about this time that I made the acquaintance of that great philanthropist, Charles Loring Brace [considered the father of the child foster care movement], and became deeply interested in the labors of the Children’s Aid Society, which has had for its object, during the fifty-nine years of its existence, the amerlioration of the condition of the children of the lower classes  of New York City. 

“In these schools tens of thousands of the very poor of nearly every race on the face of the earth and of every color, children unable from extreme poverty, from speaking a foreign language, irregular hours or other reasons, to attend the public schools, have been taught what it means to be clean, orderly, respectful and obedient to authority, industrious, truthful, honest, and pure.

"… They have been well instructed in the simplest elements of an English education, and have gone out better equipped for the struggles of life than they would have been without the mental, moral and physical training afforded by these schools. … these children were to be citizens. A body of vagabonds, ignorant and ungoverned children, forms a dangerous class which would make itself felt as men, by those who were too foolish or negligent to notice it as children.” 

“Let society beware,” Brace wrote in his report, “when the outcast, the vicious, reckless multitude of New York boys swarming now in every foul alley and low street come to know their power and use it.

What a change we have seen in the objectives of the public schools of today.  Because our children are being taught that America is “bad” and because there is no respect for our country or those in authority, we are seeing demonstrations and riots in the cities of America after the recent election of President-elect, Donald J. Trump.  For those on the “left” there is no respect for the system that was created to duly elect our leaders, that is, unless you get the candidate you want elected. 

I doubt seriously any on the right would have demonstrated or rioted if Hillary were elected, despite all of the evidence of vote tampering that has been made public over the past couple of weeks and months.  Those who voted for Romney, while disappointed and fearful of an Obama presidency, did not demonstrate when Obama was elected.  While many were depressed and discouraged that Mr. Romney did not win, even in the face of evidence of massive voter fraud presented after the election.

Continuing his efforts, in 1889 an experiment was suggested in some of the inner-city schools and agreed to by Balch and Brace.  Balch wrote a series of exercises “which should interest the children, particularly in their civil relations to the country of their birth or adoption.”

His experiment “embraced the relations existing between the teachers and the parents, and finally what steps had been taken or what special exercises were observed to awaken and stimulate a spirit of patriotism among the scholars …”

“Among the teachers, in all the schools, there was found a keen appreciation of the imperative necessity of developing and encouraging a distinctively American ideal of how important it was that the child should understand just what the school was for and why the children should attend it; that they should know something about the country, their place in it and their future duties as American citizens.”

My, oh my!  We can see how far our education system has digressed!  We desperately need to return to these founding principles so that our children will once again learn to love and respect our beloved America.  Continuing …

In May and June of 1891, the schools were visited by Balch and addressed on the subject, “Why children in public schools should salute the Nation’s flag and how they should salute it.” At that time the only words used in the salute of the flag were:

“We give our heads and our hearts to our country!” 

Believe it or not, Italian and German flags were also been exhibited in a few of the schools of New York.  Because Balch was interested in stressing the “American citizens we were endeavoring to mold and shape, and citizens of no other nation, in October 1891, the words “one nation, one language, one flag!” were added. 

Balch wrote, “The words finally agreed upon were these: 

“We give our heads and our hearts to God and to our country!  One country, one language, one flag.” 

If any of you have made a recent trip to Florida or some cities in Texas, you may have noticed that English wasn’t the only language on display.  You may have viewed some of the billboards and many other forms of signage that are entirely printed in Spanish.  Again, the progressive efforts in the public schools has been to make America ‘inclusive’ of all nations, all religions, all languages while shunning any respect for America, or for the great nation and vision she captured.  How far we have strayed from the original intent of our Founding Fathers and early educators of America’s children. 

Martin Luther said, “I am afraid that the schools will prove the very gates of hell, unless they diligently labor in explaining the Holy Scriptures and engraving them in the heart of the youth.” 

Balch outlined the following procedures for his school experiment: 

The drill for the salute of the flag and Pledge of Allegiance 

Instructions for the signals.  A key on a piano shall be struck or a bell rung if there is no piano. 

First Signal.  The pupils are assembled and seated.  The flag borne by the standard-bearer is before the school.  As either a key on the piano is struck or bell is rung, each child seizes their chair in preparation to rise. 

Second Signal.  The entire school rises as one person with each standing erect and alert. 

Third Signal.  The flag should be on the platform.  The right arm is then extended pointing directly to the flag. 

Fourth Signal.  The forearm should then be bent so as to touch the forehead lightly with the tips of the fingers of the right hand.  The motion should be quick and graceful with the elbow kept down and not sticking out to the right.  As the fingers touch the forehead, each pupil will recite: “We give our heads (emphasizing the word “heads”).

Jacob Riis.  Saluting the Flag in the Mott Street Industrial School.  1891-1892.  Gelatin silver transparency hand-colored by William T. Gregg.  Museum of the City of New York, Gift of Roger William Riis.  (

Fifth Signal.  The hand is then carried to the left side and placed flat over the heart, as the words: “and our hearts!” uttered after the movement has been made.  

Getty Images.  Stock Footage Video 1940-1949, American Flag Archival Black and White.

Sixth Signal.  The right hand is allowed to fall quickly but easily to the right side; as soon as the motion has been made, all will say, “to God and to our country.” 

Seventh Signal.  Each child, still standing erect but without moving, will exclaim, “One country!” (emphasis on country). 

Eight Signal. The children, still standing motionless, will exclaim, “One language” (emphasis on language). 

Ninth Signal.  The right arm is then suddenly extended full length toward the flag, the body inclining slightly forward; the attitude should be that of intense earnestness, the child reaching, as it were, toward the flag, at the same time exclaiming, “One flag!”. 

Tenth Signal.  The right arm is then dropped to the side and the position of attention recovered. 

Eleventh Signal.  Each child then returns to their seats and prepares to be seated. 

Twelfth Signal.  All students seat themselves simultaneously. 

Instructions for the flag bearer. 

The color bearer grasps the staff at the lower end with his right hand and a foot or more (according to the length of the staff) above the end of the staff with his left hand.  The staff is held directly in front of the middle of the body, slightly inclined forward from the perpendicular.  At the fourth signal the flag will be dipped, returning the salute; this is done by lowering the left hand until the staff is nearly horizontal, keeping it in that position until the tenth signal, when it will be restored to it first or nearly vertical position.  

Balch then concluded in his writing, “The educational value of the flag salute depends, of course, very largely upon the teacher. Children, even the most insubordinate, respond to kindness and sympathy.  If they can be made to understand that by this act they offer to their country their love, their gratitude and their devotion, then indeed will the end in view be accomplished.  If day by day, through the instruction imparted, the child appreciates more and more what it means to be a citizen of the nation, ‘conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal,’ then surely will this act become the precursor of noble aims and high endeavors. 

“God grant that this may be so, and that every child as it salutes the flag will do it with his whole soul!” 

The Pledge of Allegiance” was later revised by Francis Julius Bellamy in 1892. His original script read: 

“I pledge allegiance to my Flag and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” 

This salute in the picture above has been called the “Bellamy Salute”, which was actually adapted  from the Roman culture. 

Bellamy later wrote: "At the beginning of the nineties patriotism and national feeling was at a low ebb. The patriotic ardor of the Civil War was an old story ... The time was ripe for a reawakening of simple Americanism and the leaders in the new movement rightly felt that patriotic education should begin in the public schools."

The pledge was accompanied with a salute to the flag which has become known as the Bellamy Salute.  This form of a salute was adapted from the Roman culture. However, during World War II, the salute was replaced with a hand-over-heart gesture because the original form involved stretching the arm out towards the flag in a manner that resembled the later Nazi salute.

Italian facists and the Nazis during WWII adopted a salute similar to the Bellamy Salute in the 1920s and 1930s, which caused much controversy in the U.S.  This salute was then replaced by the hand-over-the heart salute that I was taught as a child, when Congress amended the Flag Code on December 22, 1942. 

On October 12, 1892, President Benjamin Harrison issued Presidential Proclamation 335 to coincide with the Columbus Day observances to introduce the Pledge of Allegiance and flags being placed in all public schools. 

" ... The system of universal education is in our age the most prominent and salutary feature of the spirit of enlightenment, and it is peculiarly appropriate that the schools be made by the people the center of the day's demonstration. Let the national flag float over every schoolhouse in the country and the exercises be such as shall impress upon our youth the patriotic duties of American citizenship.

"In the churches and in the other places of assembly of the people let there be expressions of gratitude to Divine Providence for the devout faith of the discoverer and for the divine care and guidance which has directed our history and so abundantly blessed our people."

Further word revisions were to follow.  In 1923, the National Flag Conference changed the words “to my Flag” to “the Flag of the United States of America” due to the large number of foreign students in the schools and in 1924, the words “of America” were added.  Bellamy opposed the changes stating "it did injure the rhythmic balance of the original composition." 

The U.S. Congress recognized the following Pledge of Allegiance on June 22, 1942: 

“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.” 

The Pledge of Allegiance was later changed when Louis Albert Bowman, an attorney in Chicago, Illinois and the chaplain for The Illinois Society of the Sons of the American Revolution, opened the February 12, 1948 of the SAR adding to the pledge “under God”, claiming these words to have come from President Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address.  Bowman continued to use his version of the pledge at future meetings. 

The Knights of Columbus adopted Bowman’s changes at their meeting in New York City in 1951 and on August 21, 1952, at the Supreme Council of the Knights of Columbus annual meeting they adopted a resolution urging that this change be made universal.  Copies of the resolution were sent to the President, the Vice President, and the Speaker of the House of Representatives. 

Other Councils followed the Supreme Council’s lead and official attempts to get Congress to adopt their changes proved successful.  A letter was written by Holger Christian Langmack, a Danish philosopher and educator, and sent to President Harry S. Truman in 1952 urging that “under God” be included in the Pledge of Allegiance. 

Langmack was also one of the founders of the National Prayer Breakfast and considered a religious leader in Washington, D.C. His letter gained favor with President Truman who then met with him along with several others to discuss the inclusion of "under God" just before "with liberty and justice." 

In 1953, Michigan’s Democratic Representative, Louis C. Rabaut, sponsored a resolution to add the words "under God" to the Pledge. According to Wikipedia, no endeavor was successful in changing the Pledge prior to February, 1954. 

On Sunday, February 7, 1954, at a service to remember President Lincoln’s birthday, President Dwight D. Eisenhower (who had been baptized just the year before on February 1, 1953) was seated in Lincoln’s pew in the New York Presbyterian Church listening to a sermon titled, "A New Birth of Freedom" delivered from the pulpit by Pastor George MacPherson Docherty.  During the sermon Docherty made the following argument: 

"There was something missing in the pledge, and that which was missing was the characteristic and definitive factor in the American way of life," reciting the words from Lincoln's Gettysburg Address "under God" and explaining that these two words “under God” are those that distinguish the United States from all other nations. 

Following the service Eisenhower met with Docherty and the next day met with Michigan’s Republican Representative, Charles Oakman, to introduce a bill to add the words “under God” to the Pledge.  A Joint Resolution was passed by Congress amending § 4 of the Flag Code, enacted in 1942, and Eisenhower signed the Resolution into law on Flag Day, June 14, 1954, stating: 

"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.... 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." 

Various attacks and challenges have come since this resolution of Congress was passed over the past few years.  Wikipedia sites the following examples: 

On March 11, 2010, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit upheld the words "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance in the case of Newdow v. Rio Linda Union School District. In a 2–1 decision, the appellate court ruled that the words were of a "ceremonial and patriotic nature" and did not constitute an establishment of religion.[48] Judge Stephen Reinhardt dissented, writing that "the state-directed, teacher-led daily recitation in public schools of the amended 'under God' version of the Pledge of Allegiance... violates the Establishment Clause of the Constitution."

On November 12, 2010, in a unanimous decision, 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. A United States Supreme Court appeal of this decision was denied on June 13, 2011.

In September 2013, a case was brought before the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, arguing that the pledge violates the Equal Rights Amendment of the Constitution of Massachusetts.[55] In May 2014, Massachusetts' highest court ruled that the pledge does not discriminate against atheists, saying that the words "under God" represent a patriotic, not a religious, exercise.

In February 2015 New Jersey Superior Court Judge David F. Bauman dismissed a lawsuit, ruling that "...the Pledge of Allegiance does not violate the rights of those who don't believe in God and does not have to be removed from the patriotic message." The case against the Matawan-Aberdeen Regional School District had been brought by a student of the district and the American Humanist Association that argued that the phrase “under God” in the pledge created a climate of discrimination because it promoted religion, making non-believers “second-class citizens.”

In a twenty-one page decision, Bauman wrote, "Under (the association members') reasoning, the very constitution under which (the members) seek redress for perceived atheistic marginalization could itself be deem unconstitutional, an absurd proposition which (association members) do not and cannot advance here." 

Bauman said the student could skip the pledge, but upheld a New Jersey law that says pupils must recite the pledge unless they have “conscientious scruples” that do not allow it. He noted; “As a matter of historical tradition, the words ‘under God’ can no more be expunged from the national consciousness than the words ‘In God We Trust’ from every coin in the land, than the words ‘so help me God’ from every presidential oath since 1789, or than the prayer that has opened every congressional session of legislative business since 1787.”

Today it is sad when we see those who should be setting the example for our youth, i.e. San Francisco 49er’s Colin Kaepernick and other Miami Dolphin football players, who are refusing to stand for our national anthem, and those like the New Jersey woman who, when introducing Hillary Clinton at the campaign rally, purposefully omitted the words “under God”. 

Well, these individuals can try and take God out of our Pledge, but as for me and our house, we will stand in respect to the singing of the national anthem and we will proudly proclaim with our hand-over-our heart: 

“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.”

Just me ... Katie

Education, Pledge of Allegiance, Colin Kaepernick, Miami Dolphins, Gettysburg Address, President Lincoln, President Truman, President Eisenhower, History of Pledge of Alleiance, The Salutation of the Flag, George Beall Balch, Student Drill for Pledge of Allegiance - Balch, Charles Loring Brace, Francis Julius Bellamy, Bellamy Salute, Flag Code, Louis Albert Bowman, Holger Christian Langmack, Pastor George MacPherson Docherty, "one Nation, under God", Children's Aid Society

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