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Society and Community:
Faith in America
More on This Story:
The Battle Over the Pledge

The Supreme Court and a circuit court have made recent rulings that go directly to the heart of the issue of the separation of church and state in the school setting.

In a 5-4 ruling on June 28, 2002 the Supreme Court handed down a decision that says the school voucher program is constitutional and does not constitute the establishment of religion. This means that tax dollars can be used to pay tuition for private religious schools.

On June 27, 2002 the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in California voted 2-1 that the Pledge of Allegiance, specifically the words "under God" violate the Constitutional separation of church and state. If allowed to stand, the ruling would apply to schools in the nine states covered by the 9th Circuit.

"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." The words are familiar. Many, if not most, U.S. schoolchildren say The Pledge of Allegiance every morning. But most Americans probably don't know the history of those words, and the changes they've gone through over time. In particular, that the words "under God" weren't added until 1954.

Pledge Timeline

  • 1892: The Pledge is introduced to celebrate Columbus's discovery of America. It is written by magazine editor and Christian Socialist, Francis Bellamy and reads: "I pledge allegiance to my Flag and to the Republic for which it stands: one Nation indivisible with Liberty and Justice for all."

  • 1923: As immigration debates heat up in the United States, The National Flag Conference, sponsored by the American Legion and the Daughters of the American Revolution, changes "my Flag" to "the flag of the United States of America."

  • 1942: Congress formally recognizes the pledge and includes it in the federal Flag Code.

  • 1942: Congress changes the official stance of pledge takers to the right hand over the heart — the previous stance, one hand extended from the body, was too reminiscent of the Nazi salute.

  • 1954: Congress adds the words "under God" to the pledge. The Knights of Columbus lobbied for the change.

  • The words and stance of the pledge are currently laid out in TITLE 4 - CHAPTER 1 - Sec. 4. of the United States Code. It can only be modified by the President.

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