Mind and Destiny

“I make no pretension to patriotism. So long as my voice can be heard ... I will hold up America to the lightning scorn of moral indignation. In doing this, I shall feel myself discharging the duty of a true patriot; for he is a lover of his country who rebukes and does not excuse its sins. It is righteousness that exalteth a nation while sin is a reproach to any people.”- Frederick Douglass

Location: Delhi, N.Y., United States

The author and his webmaster, summer of 1965.

Friday, November 19, 2004

Under God

The history of the Pledge of Allegiance is very interesting, Francis Bellamy a Baptist minister wrote the original Pledge in 1892. He was the chairman of a committee of state superintendents of education in the National Education Association. Rev. Bellamy structured a public school program around a flag raising ceremony. He had considered placing the word "equality" in his Pledge, but knew some state superintendents on the committee were against equality for women and African Americans.

During my elementary and high school education, we recited a pledge which didn't include the seemingly innocuous words "under God." In 1954, Congress added the words "under God," after a vigorous campaign by the Knights of Columbus. At this point the Pledge became both a patriotic oath and a public prayer.

The effort to undermine the separation of church and state doctrine reached a peak in the so called "religious revival" of the 1950's. Eisenhower inaugurated the prayer breakfast. Congress created a prayer room in the Capital and added the words "In God we Trust" to all paper money.

The 1960 Supreme Court decision in Engel vs Vitale ruled it unconstitutional for public schools to allow prayer, even though the prayer was non-denominational and students were allowed to abstain from the exercise. Kennedy replied that he understood many people were angered by the ruling, and that there was "a very easy remedy -not a constitutional amendment but a renewed commitment to pray at home, in the churches and with their families."

In my opinion the historic roots of the deep division we are now facing in our nation began when Congress added "under god" to the Pledge . These two words led us on a slippery slope and as Michael Parenti points out in his book Super Patriotism "U.S. leaders repeatedly weave piety with patriotism."