If the U.S. Supreme Court decides later this month to strike the phrase "under God" from the Pledge of Allegiance, America could be in for a rhetorical facelift. Not only will millions of schoolchildren cease reciting the Pledge known by their parents and grandparents, but other American symbols would also appear to be on the way out. "In God We Trust" no longer.
Of course, the Supreme Court may choose to side with the overwhelming majority of Americans, who want the Supreme Court to preserve the Pledge with "under God." When the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals struck the phrase in 2002, their decision sparked widespread public outrage. Politicians voiced their indignation, while religious leaders decried the ongoing secularization of America.
As usual, some historical perspective can help us think about this issue.
Judging by the public reaction, one would think George Washington or Abraham Lincoln penned the Pledge. Actually "under God" first appeared in the Pledge as a Cold War-era addition. But the history of this phrase extends back to the nation's birth. And during the Civil War, these two words comforted a nation unsure whether their experiment with democracy would succeed. Nevertheless, is it possible that a seeming Supreme Court victory could actually be a defeat in disguise?
Columbus Day Composition
The Pledge of Allegiance made its debut in 1892 when Massachusetts educator and Baptist minister Francis Bellamy authored the oath for Columbus Day festivities. Celebrating the 400th anniversary of the explorer's landing in America, schoolchildren around the nation recited the Pledge: "I pledge allegiance to my flag, and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."
This first ...1
Already a CT subscriber? Log in for full digital access.
Subscribe to Christianity Today and get access to this article plus 65+ years of archives.
- Home delivery of CT magazine
- Complete access to articles on ChristianityToday.com
- Over 120 years of magazine archives plus full access to all of CT’s online archives
- Learn more