How many of you have seen the rants on Facebook and other social media sites about ‘keeping God in the pledge’? How many have seen the inflammatory artwork on both sides of the debate passed around and reposted within an inch of its life by nearly everyone you ever knew and some you wish you didn’t? The debate about including or excluding mention of God or any other deity in the American pledge of allegiance or on American money has gone viral and some days it’s everywhere you look, hot, angry, and sometimes misguided. We are force fed a diet of phrases like, ‘If it’s on our money it should be in the pledge!’ or ‘I didn’t ask your god to be in my government!’ But do we really understand where ‘One nation under God’ or ‘In God we Trust’ have come from or why they found their way into everyday life?
I’ve had this debate with several friends in recent years and have argued on both sides of the coin as I learn more and my opinion changes. I am increasingly surprised at how many people don’t realize where this all started. I hear a lot of arguments that the ‘atheists’ should stop the argument because they are such a small minority. While it is correct that the smallest groups usually scream the loudest, it might be important to learn that what they are screaming actually has a point.
The original pledge of allegiance was not even written for the United States and it was not written or adopted at the start of our government in 1776. According to USHistory.org, the pledge was written in 1892 by socialist minister Frances Bellamy. He had hoped the original pledge could be used in any country. Mention or God or a specific country wasn’t included. It read only, “I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” (“US History “) United States of America wasn’t added until 1923. It wasn’t until 1942 that the pledge of allegiance was recited in schools which became the familiar ritual most of us remember growing up. (“ProCon.org”) You’ll notice we’re up to 1942 and ‘Under God’ still hasn’t made its appearance.
In the 1950s the United States was deeply entrenched in the cold war. This was an ugly time for America. The US government began what was later termed ‘witch hunts’ trying American citizens for their political beliefs. There is no better example than the Rosenburg trials of 1950. Summarized, based only on their Russian ancestry and therefore familial contacts and a few doodles that could have been anything, brother and sister Julius and Ethel Rosenburg were put on trial for being communists and eventually put to death. (Linder) It was 1954 when Eisenhower signed into law a bill adding the words, “Under God,” to the pledge of allegiance. At the time he is quoted as saying this was to distance US legislation from the, “Godless communists.” (“ProCon.org”) Communist Russia did encourage and sometimes enforce atheism, but what does that have to do with putting God into our own government?
The other phrase that has people in uproar is, ‘In God we Trust’ printed boldly on our money. This has been around much longer than ‘Under God,’ but again its origins do not go back to the start of our country but rather a time much later.
It was 1831 during the civil war when appeals from Christians around the nation started filtering through secretary of the treasury. The idea was that of course we couldn’t win the civil war which had already stolen thousands of lives if we separated ourselves from God. Many different ideas were given but all had to do with adding to our money some reference to God protecting country. In 1864 congress agreed and the phrase was added only to the two-cent coin. Very slowly over 20 years or more the phrase was added to all coin money. However, it wasn’t until the 1960’s, again very close to the cold war and the induction of ‘Under God’ to the pledge that we began printing, ‘In God we Trust’ on paper money. (“UStreasury.gov”)
Overall, I have to say ‘In God we Trust’ bothers me a great deal less than the phrase ‘Under God,’ because the original idea was to help heal a torn country rather than out of fear like the addition to the pledge clearly was. That being said I still disagree with it. My reason for that is fairly strait forward.
Most of us know about the constitution and a good deal of the bill of rights so I won’t bore you with tedious information. At the time the United States government was created the settlers had come from places where the Christian Church controlled everything. It held more power than the government itself. Children were only taught what the church allowed them to. People on trial were found guilty or innocent at the whim of the church. Punishments were at the church’s discretion. Arrests were made of people who simply believed differently. People sometimes died for no more reason than having an original thought. Our forefathers ran from that. They saw a nation where citizens would be free to think, and speak, and believe as they saw fit.
The United States of America was created specifically so that no faith would have power over the government and that all peoples would be free to believe or not believe as they chose. This is not just an ideal but the founding principle on which our entire nation was formed. Whatever the intentions; allowing phrases about God or deity to infringe upon that most sacred belief chips away at the foundations of our government, eventually rendering it less and less effective.
Some of you will look at my profile and see that I am pagan and think, ‘Of course she doesn’t want God in the pledge, she doesn’t believe in him.’ I assure you that couldn’t be further from the truth. I believe in a creator, a higher power, I simply choose to define it differently. I put faith into every aspect of my life, but I also believe in the reasons the United States was formed and the original vision for a nation of abiding peace. I worship and follow my faith at home. I walk the walk and talk religion with anyone interested, but even as I strongly as I believe in my faith, it has no business in my government. By keeping my faith and everyone else’s out, I truly have the freedom to believe as I believe. This protects us all.
“10 Minute Summary on the Pledge of Allegiance.” ProCon.org. ProCon.org, 06/08/2009. Web. 21 Sep 2012. .
“Hisory of ‘In God We Trust’.” UStreasury.gov. United States Department of the Treasury , 03/08/2011. Web. 21 Sep 2012.
Linder, Doug. “Trial of the Rosenburgs an Account.” law2.umkc.edu. University Missouri Kansas City, 2011. Web. 21 Sep 2012. .
“Pledge of Allegiance.” US History . Independence Hall Association, 1995. Web. 21 Sep 2012. .