History of the Pledge of Allegiance

The Pledge of Allegiance is a well-known phrase used by American citizens everywhere. Its words have evolved, but its message remains the same: loyalty and commitment to the United States of America. Learn about the history of the Pledge of Allegiance and what it means to the American people today.

Origins of the Pledge of Allegiance

Would you believe that the pledge started as a marketing gimmick? In 1892, to celebrate the 400th anniversary of Columbus arriving in the Americas. Francis Bellamy is credited with writing it. At the time, it wasn’t standard and not said as much as it is today.

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

Challenges and Changes Over Time

This podcast goes over the challenges the Jehovah’s Witness community brought to the Supreme Court. It is classroom friendly!

In 1940 the Supreme Court heard a case calledMinersville SchoollDistrictt v. Gobitis. In this case, the Supreme Court ruled that saying the pledge of allegiance did not violate religious freedom.

In 1942during World War II, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, signed the Flag Code, which created a standardized version of the Pledge of Allegiance. It is the version we know today without Under God.

"I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America into the republic, for which it stands, one nation indivisible with liberty and justice for all"

1943: the Supreme Court heard another case West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnett. In this case, the Supreme Court overturned the ruling in the Gobitis case and said that the free speech clause prohibits schools from forcing students to salute and say the Pledge of Allegiance.

1954: With the Red Scare in full force, Eisenhower adds “Under God” to the pledge. He signed this on Flag Day. This gives us the pledge of allegiance we know today.

"I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America into the republic, for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible with liberty and justice, for all."

The Fight Over the Pledge Today

2004: Elk Grove v. Newdow – the Ninth Circuit court says the pledge does not violate students’ rights because they can not participate. Although the Supreme Court said the father had no standing, O’Connor, Rehnquist, and Thomas wrote concurrences.

The Constitution Center has a great article on this that goes into better detail.

Does your state require the pledge?

Arizona has AZRS 15-506, which states, “School districts and charter schools shall…set aside a specific time each day for students who wish to recite the pledge of allegiance to the United States flag.” Right now, the legislature is attempting to change this law so that students must recite the pledge and parents can opt out. (These laws only apply to public schools in our state.)

This raises the question of what is done when the parents' wishes conflict with the students? 

The history of the pledge was so fascinating to research. Laws, challenges, and changes have shifted the wording and requirements throughout the last 131 years. The one piece of information that many find the most interesting is that the pledge is not as old as they think!

What do you think?

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