What, Exactly, Does The “Under God” In Our Pledge Mean?

I’ve heard the argument a gazillion times that the “God” in the Pledge of Alligence could mean any god or religion.  And, I’ve heard many times as well the “higher power” referred to in Alcholics Annonomous could refer to not a god but anything else bigger than oneself.

An increasing percentage of Americans do not believe in higher powers of any kind.  This group may not want their children to have the schools’ authority figures, teachers, standing in front of the children receiting a pledge of “one nation, under God,…”

At home, the parents are trying to teach their children there is no such thing as a god or higher power.  The school, supported be their tax dollars, is undercutting their family values.

Technically, children are not required say the Pledge.  Some argue they could just ignore it. That is called the “divert-your-eyes” argument used by those defending Ten Commandments on public property

A series of court decisions have done away with divert-your-eyes.  That is, tax dollars cannot be used to advocate one religion over another even if people have the right to ignore it.

If we take the Ten Commandments court decisions and apply them to “under God” in the Pledge it would seem to make it unconstitutional.  But, courts have not seen many cases about “under God” yet so where it it headed we don’t know.


15 Responses

  1. Michael Ross

    Pledge of Allegiance was created by Socialist Francis Bellamy. The original Bellamy salute to the United States flag when reciting the Pledge was the EXACT SAME ONE that the National Socialists (Nazis) used to salute Hitler and the Italians used for Fascist Mussolini . The salute was changed to placing one’s hand over one’s heart only after we entered World War II.

    You are pledging your allegiance to the federal government. Pardon me but that sounds like idolatry.

    1. Dan

      You’re pledging your alligance to the American Flag and to the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. It was written in 1892 by Francis Bellamy. By reciting it, people are reminded of what our country stands for, liberty and justice. It invokes a sense of patriotism among those who have sacraficed soo much for for the republic. There are those who do not respect the pledge such as yourself and try and darken the true details of it inception. The initial salute was as you say but, it had absolutely nothing to do with referencing something that yet to existed (Nazism). But it makes for a good story just the same. Does it make sense to discredit those things that provide for national identity? We’re just going down the same road as the Roman empire; over extended, swamped with foreigners (illegals), loss of national identity, slumping economy. Our time is fast approaching. So until it comes to pass, lets go ahead and speed it up: open the borders, do away with the pledge, keep printing money, do away with the Star Spangled Banner. I’m so tired of seeing the attacks on our heritage, I’m ready to just do away with it all and get it over with. Maybe a better, more enlightened society will manifest itself and we’ll all be happy with liberty and justice for all.

  2. noblindersome

    I have no issue with the ‘under God ‘ phrase in the pledge. It is a nice ,feel good part of a ritual uttering seldom repeated by the masses with sincere adherence to the actual words . Yeah yeah yeah ,like ‘under God ‘ really means those monotonously saying the pledge will pledge to serve God thereafter they take their hand off their hearts!
    “With liberty and justice for all’ are the next words in the pledge . Yet we as a nation are still quibbling as to how we should treat our neighbors. ( Don’t get me started as to how some of my “Christian ‘ neighbors bitch about giving liberty and justice to all of our citizens))
    It is like the words in the Joe South song of years ago “Games People Play”. or the Barry McQuire song – ‘hate your next door neighbor but don’t forget to say grace!”
    Leave the words in , but don’t hypocritically assume that makes you morally superior to others. “According to them “God ‘ is omnipotent , watching them at every move . Actions not just mere words define my Christianity.

    1. Wolfy32

      Well said no blinders. I look at the pledge as a tradition / ritual of instilling patriotism in children… If anything I have an issue in brainwashing children to blindly support their government no matter what… I agree it is a bit socialistic to model pledging one’s life and existence to the federal government. After all, we’re supposed to be a democracy, blind adherance to a government was not the original intent. Quite the opposite I believe.

      So, in some ways I have issues with the pledge for other reasons, but, under God, bleh… It’s come to mean under god, (not the pronoun but simply a tradition). It’s no different than teaching kids about santaclause, or the easter bunny in schools. Or having kids celebrate valentines day. They are all very traditional ritualistic activities. Many people are going to disagree with everything…. At some point, all our kids will have no fun in school because the adults take the fun / joy out of everything by fighting over it. Either get rid of the pledge or leave it, but, don’t make the kids suffer because of it.

  3. David

    I generally think the Pledge of Allegiance is harmless. Atheists seem to find God under every corner (ironically). That said it’s sort of like having to wear a flag pin to prove that one supports its country. I don’t think it’s necessary. I would rather kids spend time learning the great ideas upon which the country was founded.

    I do object to the idea that presenting religious objects somehow violates the establishment clause. The establishment clause simply prohibits the establishment BY LAW of a religion. This nonsense about public displays certainly was never contemplated by the Founding Fathers. Several states at the time the bill of rights was adopted had established religions under law. There’s a good question as to whether the fourteenth amendment incorporates the clause.

    I think it is entirely none of the business of the Supreme Court whether some school says a prayer before class or if they decide to put a Menorah in the lobby during Hanukkah. If the federal government were to pass a law requiring a school prayer – that would be an issue. I don’t think it’s a good idea for a school to sponsor prayer, and put out displays but that should be up to the local elected officials. I think the Supreme Court becomes absurd when they address the minutia of public life to the point where they are some super legislature.

    I also have no sympathy for atheists, especially liberal atheists, who admonish the government for spending money on things for which they don’t personally agree. Hello. Join the club. The National Endowment for the Arts has spent a great deal of money on questionable “art” which is demeaning to many religious folks. I’m sure Jon has no issue with that. This sort of selective approval of the way the government spends money is hypocritical.

    The degree to which atheists get their feathers in a ruffle is laughable. Perhaps it is the defining characteristic of an atheist that they are so narcissistic and want the rest of the world to bend to their wishes. Woe to this country if we are ever truly faced with true hardship.

    1. David 5:14 “The establishment clause simply prohibits the establishment BY LAW of a religion. This nonsense about public displays certainly was never contemplated by the Founding Fathers.”

      I’m afraid you are putting your own spin onto the Constitution and Founding Fathers. We a.) know what they wrote and b.) don’t know what they “envisioned”. You are not alone, people do this everyday.

      When displays that advise the public of the state’s chosen religion are on public property, a law have to be passed putting them there and/or funding their existance. The Consitution clearly prohibits this. Supreme Courst Justices and staffs have reaffirmed this for decades, much to the frustration of those who want a state religion of Christianity.

      1. David

        The constitutional law regarding the establishment clause has been badly bastardized over the years. It is nearly incomprehensible. If you look at the original meaning of the term it really is designed so that no one is forced to belong to a religion. The state cannot make you belong to a religion. It certainly does not speak to public displays. It makes no mention of prohibiting prayer in public places or as part of a public meeting. It definitely does not prohibit the general mention of God in the Pledge of Allegiance. The current jurisprudence on the Establishment Clause does not mean the Constitution forbids the display of religious symbols on public land or in public buildings – however ill advised. The interpretation of the clause – like many in and not in the Constitution – has evolved picking up new connotations from one opinion to the next. Thus, the current uneven jurisprudence.

        You are incorrect that there needs to be a law that puts things on display in the public. The building caretaker may put up Christmas decorations. The school principal may put on a nativity play with the elementary. No law or ordinance is passed. It is just something people do.

        I don’t think people want a state of Christianity. I certainly do not. But I am in favor of a limited government run by the people and not nine smarty pants lawyers in black robes. If a local school district wants to teach evolution – fine. If a local school board thinks creationism is the way to go – fine. I might not vote for that particular stance but elected bodies are free to be dumb. Congress is proof of that.

        A good example may be Christmas vacation. We don’t call it that anymore but that’s what it is (actually the federal government does call it Christmas vacation). There is no secular reason for giving people the 25th of December off from work. However, it is allowed because a majority of people want it. It certainly does not establish a state religion. It’s part of living in a society that is predominately Christian with a predominately Christian background. I suggest instead of taking away the pledge, which most people are indifferent to, to taking away a day off on Christmas for all government employees.

        1. David 6:46 I agree it would be a better country if we did not have lawyers and judges deciding many things that should be figured out by the parties involved. And, I agree the establishment clause is not consistantly applied.

          But, it is very possible to have a state religion without passing a law which says, “The official religion of this country is —-” Our judges recognize that and act accordingly.

          We could have a law which says, “Atheists are prohibited from holding meetings because Communists are atheists. It is not because Christianity is the state’s religion.” In the 1950’s this could have happened. Or, a law which says, “Christian advertising will be placed on all stop signs and stop lights because Christians have fewer accidents. It is not because Christianity is a Country’s religion.” There are all kinds of tricks that could put into place the impression there is only one approved religion, even though no law says there is a state religion. If one doesn’t like government, he should be against allowing its power to be used to create impression it knows better than you what religious views you should have.

          Judges have concluded that if the government creates the impression there is a state religion without passing a law there is one, the outcome is no different than it they passed such a law. Thus, when the Costitution says no law to establish a religion, Judges interpret that literally by prohibiting laws that fund the message there is a state religion.

          1. David

            Jon, I agree that judges are saying that certain activities are tantamount to establishing a religion, but look at the test involved. Essentially under Lemon v. Kurtzman (1971) you have three criteria that a law must meet to not violate the Establishment Clause. In other words in the world of the Supreme Court any one of these prongs of the test is tantamount to the establishment of religion.

            (1) The primary purpose must be secular. What if a legislature wants to promote religion in general. Not a great government purpose in my mind, but certainly not the establishment of religion. (2) the primary effect must be that it does not advance or inhibit religion. I understand not allowing the inhibition of religion. That specifically stated in the Constitution. I can see how advancing religion too far would cause problems under the establishment clause. However, advancing does not equal establishing. (3) the law cannot excessively entangle government and religion. This is so vague as to make it mean whatever a judge “feels” is excessive entanglement.

            The three prong test would be good guidelines for a legislature in my opinion. However, each prong is excessive in that it fails to reach the central question of whether the statute establishes a religion.

            A teacher expressing his or her views on religion may be a bad teacher. However, this is hardly different than teachers expressing their opinions on recycling, nuclear energy, etc. This sort of thing happens all the time – many times at the urging of the administration. I don’t want my tax dollars going to indoctrinating my children on these sorts of items any more than I would want them teaching my children about religious subjects. That said it is not the establishment of religion, just bad teaching.

            I agree that cities, schools, states and the federal government should not entangle themselves in religion. It’s bad for both worlds. However, I am much in favor of a reading of the constitution that does not go into the minutia of who speaks at a graduation ceremony. I don’t think prayer at a graduation ceremony makes any sense. That said, it’s not an establishment of religion. It’s just insensitive. The Supreme Court ruling on all this minutia IS the entanglement of government and religion. It’s unnecessary but most importantly it creates a myriad of rules (laws) that the Court was never intended to rule upon.

          2. David 5:28 I agree the Lemon test and all the other ways the Court has drawn lines is vague and does not address directly whether a government is in violation of the Establishment Clause. They rules are just as frustrating to those of us trying to keep religion out of government as it is for those trying to push it in.

            A few years ago, at the urging of Pat Robertson’s ACLJ, the courts started saying the standard is no longer the Lemon Test, it starts with the rights of governments to speak, to say whatever they want, so long as it does not violate the Establishment Clause. What the ef does that mean? We don’t know. But, even that is not being applied uniformly.

            The one thing these endless court battles have done is to limit the amount of lieing local/federal governments can do about religious symbols. We can argue on the record that the U. S. is not “a Christian nation”. We can counter the bogus claim that the Ten Commandments are the basis for our laws. We can counter the bogus claim that the Fraturnity of Eagles who sponsored many 10C monuments is a secular organization.

            I did like the way earlier courts handled the 10C issue. If the 10C was part of a long standing (not quickly assembled just before going to court) historical display about religion and laws, it could remain on public property. If it stood by itself, right there with the words “thou shalt believe in the one and only God”, it is supported there by a law the intent of which is to Establish a religion.

  4. Dan

    Kids in North Korea pledge allegiance to Kim-Jone Un. How about we replace under God with under Obama. Kids in New York city already sing songs about him. One kid on youtube actually prayed to Obama. Sure, under God will be replaced with something else someday. But who will replace it? Do atheists place their faith in man? Britian used to pledge their allegiance to the crown.

  5. Brad

    “Sure, under God will be replaced with something else someday. But who will replace it? Do atheists place their faith in man? Britian used to pledge their allegiance to the crown.”

    That’s the flawed thinking of the religious crowd. They assume that there always has to be faith in something. How about faith in nothing? Is that a concept that the believers could wrap their head around?

    1. dan

      But history shows that most all countries look to something for guidance. It used to be the Sun, Zeus, Dictators, God. God will be replaced by something. What? If not, please point out a country that does not look to a God, Man or some other entity for guidance. Russia looked to Stalin, Germany looked to Hitler, India looks to Buddha, the middle east looks to Allah… How about the U.S. look to A.I. If A.I. (Computer God) is ever achieved, even atheists will recognize that it as being of superior intellect and eternal. How could a non-biological organism ever die? It could easily replicate itself and live forever. So there would be such a thing as eternity.

      1. Brad

        That’s the problem. Countries that look to one figure or god for guidance usually fail. That’s where the United States, in spite of all the propaganda to the contrary, operates on the basic principle that we rely on ourselves. That’s what a democracy is all about. If we are going to turn to one god or person to lead us, then we become a dictatorship.

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