The Constitutional Principle: Separation of Church and State
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The Pledge

These links provide in-depth information for researching the Pledge of Allegience controversy.

Researched and assembled
by Jim Allison

Some Background

A Study Guide to the History of United States Symbols and Mottos

First major attempts to amend the Constitution 1863 - 1880

Madison's Arguments Against Special Religious Sanction of American Government (1792)

Madison's vetoes: Some of The First Official Meanings Assigned to The Establishment Clause

Proposed Christian Amendment

Chronology of Religious Measures Introduced in Congress between 1888 - 1910

Religious Measures in Congress 1888 - 1949

The NRA (National Reform Association) and the Christian Amendment

The Decision

This is a .pdf file of the court decision. There are numerous references to the 1954 law, including a few quotes from the legislative history. The Decision

This is an html file of the court decision. Newdow v. U.S. Congress

The Controversy

From a variety of sources

One Nation Under God? Frequently Asked Questions About the 9th Circuit's Decision. On The Pledge Of Allegiance

One (Constitutionally Illiterate) Nation Under God: The Constitution Can't Protect Our Rights If We Don't Understand Them. Jamin B. Raskin is a professor of constitutional law at American University and director of its Marshall Brennan Fellowship Program.

The Loyal Opposition: God-Given Liberty? 'I Pledge Allegiance To Fundamentalism In The United States of America ...' by David Corn

A Pledge to Establish Religion

Talk Back: Readers respond to the Web commentaries and latest issues of the magazine.
Subject: Pledging allegiance to a flag and to those temporarily in office and power?

US "Pledge" ruling exposes political scoundrels

Public Schools Can't Require Flag Pledge with 'Under God' in It, Federal Court Rules

ACLU Responds to Appeals Court Ruling on Pledge of Allegiance

Furor Builds in Wake of Circuit Court Ruling Against Religionized Pledge

In God We Trust: All Others Pay Cash by Ralph C. Reynolds

Aftermath of Pledge Ruling: Bush, Pols Push "Under God," Call for Constitutional Amendment

9th Circuit Tosses Out the Pledge of Allegiance">

Mom's Disavowal Adds Twist to Pledge Case

9th Circuit Judge Unfazed by Storm Over Pledge Ruling

11th Circuit Denied Pledge of Allegiance Claims

Courting Controversy

U.S. Supreme Court May Have to Settle Pledge of Allegiance Dispute

One Nation Over God By Steven Mikulan LA Weekly Writer

Politics: A few House members support pledge ruling. By Michelle Locke, Associated Press. [Editor's Note: This article was available at As of 2/12/03, the NandoTimes website requires registration to access articles. The article is still there.]

The Los Angeles Times ran a story about the Freedom From Religion Foundation in Sunday's paper (6/30/02). The story was reprinted in the San Francisco Chronicle, and can be seen online today (July 1) at: Atheist organization jubilant over ruling on pledge, Unbelievers say voices may finally be heard Stephanie Simon, Los Angeles Times

When Patriotism Wasn't Religious By Arthur Schlesinger Jr.

Bend, Oregon Thursday, July 18th, 2002: Court's pledge ruling right to keep church, state at arm's length. Since nation is aghast, how about a trial removal of the two words in question? By H. Bruce Miller, (

Pious Pledgers All By Richard Cohen

Media Advisory: Attacks on Pledge Ruling Bolster Its Logic

ORIGINAL BELLAMY PLEDGE: 'I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.' - 8 September 1892

Change #1 - October 1892: added the word "to" between 'and -- the Republic'.

Change #2 - 1924: replaced "my Flag" with "the flag of the United States of America" under the sponsorship of the DAR and the American Legion. Rev. Bellamy objected to the change but his objections were ignored.

Change #3 - 1954: added the clause "under God" after "one nation." under the lobbying of the Knights of Columbus and the red-scare tactics of McCarthyism. Rev Bellamy's family (he died in 1931) said that he would also have resented this change. He had been pressured into leaving his church in 1891 because of his socialist sermons. In his retirement in Florida, he stopped attending church because he disliked the racial bigotry he found there.

The Pledge was given official recognition in 1942 by Congress. In 1943 the Supreme Court upheld that it was unconstitutional to make recitation of the pledge mandatory by public school students.

"There is no mysticism in the American concept of the State or of the nature or origin of its authority. We set up government by consent of the governed, and the Bill of Rights denies those in power any legal opportunity to coerce that consent. Authority here is to be controlled by public opinion, not public opinion by authority...Any spark of love for country which may be generated in a child or his associates by forcing him to make what is to him an empty gesture and recite words wrung from him contrary to his religious beliefs is overshadowed by the desirability of preserving freedom of conscience to the full. It is in that freedom and the example of persuasion, not in force and compulsion, that the real unity of America lies. " - US Supreme Court, West Virginia State Board of Education vs Barnette (1943)

That's something that those in power should remember.

Date: Tue, 02 Jul 2002 16:06:48 -0400

To: Billy [deleted for privacy]

From: "Glen P. Goffin

Subject: One American's Opinion

Dear Billy,

Why is it that a doctor from Scotland can see what is wrong with our current pledge and so many Americans can not? However, the real issue is whether or not the "Government of the United States" can constitutionally (legally) legislate "religion " into the official oaths of our secular federal republic. Here is what James Madison, in Section 3 of his "Memorial and Remonstrance," had to say about this issue:

"Who does not see that the same authority which can establish Christianity, in exclusion of all other Religions, may establish with the same ease any particular sect of Christianity, in exclusion of all other Sects?"

Why did the frightened members of those 1950's Congresses suddenly decide that we needed the protection of a supernatural God? America had fought and won two world wars and a bloody police action without having those two words ("under God") in our Pledge of Allegiance. Why did this same government decide that we must change our national motto from "E Pluribus Unum" (From many one) to "In God We Trust?" When I took my oath as an officer, I did not swear to defend any supernatural God. I swore to defend the Constitution and the principle of Church-State separation embodied in the 1st Amendment. I did not swear to defend religion or Christianity. I swore to defend America and Americans of every manner. [See: National Mottos

Here is the analysis of : [Name and city deleted for privacy] Scotland, Occupation: Physician. Interests: Science in general, neuroscience, religion. Basic Beliefs: Atheist, Naturalist

The American Pledge of Allegiance, mandatory in American schools is as follows: "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." See the contradiction they created when President Eisenhower in 1954 added "under God."

First: If America is "under God" that implies exclusion of those who are not under God, Atheists, Agnostics, Freethinkers, Ignostics, polytheists (Hindus, Pagans, Wiccans).

Secondly: If those not under God are excluded, then America is not ONE NATION. It is two nations, a Theistic/Christian Nation, and a non-Theistic nation of second class subjects (not citizens.)

Thirdly: If those not under God are excluded, then America is not indivisible. It is purposefully divisible into the ruling class of Theists and the subject class of non-theists.

Fourthly: If those not under God are excluded, then America cannot possibly give liberty and justice for all. It must give and does already give more freedom and liberty to Theists, really to Christians than to non-Christians. Christians can put Christmas Creches on State lands, the Christian 10 Commandments can be posted in Schools and court houses. In that atmosphere an Atheist cannot expect equal justice.

Solution: Either drop the "Under God" and restore the original pledge that was not self-contradictory. Or to be fair and just, add in place of "under God" this revision, "under one God, many Gods, or no gods" with liberty and justice for all.

The argument that the word "God" does not "establish" a religion is, and always has been, a canard defended by a specific group of "Christian" faith believers in this country. To help people to understand this, merely use "under Allah" in our pledge and see if Congress would insert it into the Pledge. The "God" referred to in our Pledge and National Motto is the Christian God. How can anyone with integrity attempt to deny that? If they do, then they are actually minimizing their own supernatural deity.

These are my personal opinions and views. I love this country because it is a multi-cultural, pluralistic, secular, federal republic where the expression of "individual" conscience "was" protected by the Constitution from interference or intimidation by the Government. I could not swear an oath to defend a Christian Taliban America...and that is exactly what many are claiming that it is...a "Christian Nation," under a Christian supernatural god.


Glen P. Goffin

PS: I loved Red Skelton; but he did not craft our Constitution. Just think how lucky he was, and the rest of us are, that we had/have a right to express our spiritual conscience in whatever manner we wish without fear of Government intrusion like we see in so many other countries throughout the world. We survived and prospered before being unconstitutionally placed "under" the Christian God. We will once again be a nation of moral and ethical, as well as legal, principles when religion is separated from our government and true, not religiously qualified, patriotism.

Source of Information: e-mail received from Glen P. Goffin, July 1, 2002

Dear Editor:

As time goes by and the smoke clears, there can be but one sane conclusion: The 9th Circuit got it right! A 1954 act of Congress inserting "under God" into the Pledge of Allegiance is unconstitutional and, therefore, its recitation can no longer be sponsored by public schools in the eight states concerned.

"A profession that we are a nation 'under God' is identical to a profession that we are a nation 'under Jesus,' a nation 'under Vishnu,' a nation 'under Zeus,' or a nation 'under no god,' because none of these professions can be neutral with respect of religion. The coercive effect of this policy is particularly pronounced in the school setting given the age and impressionability of schoolchildren, and their understanding that they are required to adhere to the norms set by their school, their teacher and their fellow students," noted the court.

Moreover, the U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly ruled that religious instruction is the business of parents, not the government. Thanks to the Constitution, your child and mine cannot be pressured into religious observances that may run counter to the family's beliefs during instructional time. The 9th's June 26 ruling on the Pledge is simply a logical continuation of that wise judicial precedent.

Dennis Coyier

Source of Information: Received in e-mail from Robert E. Nordlander, July 25, 2002

June 27, 2002

Conservative Petition:

Let us hope that the decision of the federal appeals court is upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court. Government has no business telling us that we are under any god.

It should be remembered that the original Pledge of Allegiance was written by a Socialist, Francis Bellamy, the first cousin of Edward Bellamy, the author of LOOKING BACKWARD; 2000-1887 which was a popular best-selling utopian socialist novel of the era. It should be noted that the original 1892 text was secular:

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

Three decades later the "National Flag Conference, under the 'leadership of the American Legion and the Daughters of the American Revolution, changed the Pledge's words, 'my Flag,' to 'the Flag of the United States of America.' Bellamy disliked this change, but his protest was ignored." (See A Short History of the Pledge of Allegianceby John W.Baer

It should be noted that it was in 1954 that the Knights of Columbus, a Roman Catholic fraternal organization, that lobbied for the change that inserted "under God" into the Pledge of Allegiance. One might infer that the god America is under is a Roman Catholic deity.

When that changed occurred Baer's history of the Pledge recorded that "Bellamy's granddaughter said he also would have resented this second change. He had been pressured into leaving his church in 1891 because of his socialist sermons. In his retirement in Florida, he stopped attending church because he disliked the racial bigotry he found there."

Thus all Americans should be happy that the Pledge of Allegiance has been restored to its pristine secular constitutional hue.

Remembering ATHEISTs who have made the supreme sacrifice for our country too.

Robert E. Nordlander
333 Lopas Street
Menasha, WI 4952
Telephone: 920 725 1864

Source of Information: Received in e-mail from Robert E. Nordlander, June 27, 2002


The Pledge of Allegiance

The 'under God' phrase was inserted in the Pledge of Allegiance because of a McCarthy-era campaign by a right-wing Catholic group, the Knights of Columbus. The KOC is now deeply involved in anti-abortion campaigning by the Catholic Church and was once an important supporter of the notorious Legion of Decency, which censored American films and was the source of the phrase "banned in Boston." So not only are the words "under God" clearly religious, they have their origins in the theocratic maneuverings of one particular religion. Ironically, until recently the Catholic Church did not consider Christian fundamentalists covered by the very phrase they today so loudly champion. The theology of salvation by faith alone was anathematized by Rome.

John M. Swomley, THE HUMANIST, May-June 1998 - A massive political campaign is underway in an effort to achieve religious and political control of crucial American policies and institutions, an effort which the popular press and television have virtually ignored. It was inspired by the Vatican and has been carried out over a period of years under the supervision of the National Council of Catholic Bishops . . . For example, [the bishops] had an important and close relationship with President George Bush. Within a month after Bush took office, he included all five of the U.S. cardinals in meetings at the White House and, thereafter, Cardinals Bernard Law of Boston and John O Connor of New York spent overnights at the White House as guests of the president . . .

The bishops organized their political campaign in 1975 and outlined it in an internal pastoral letter for Catholic officials and organizations. It is an ambitious campaign aimed at controlling judicial appointments, Congress, and other national and state political offices. In his book Catholic Bishops in American Politics, Catholic writer Timothy A. Byrnes calls the bishops plan the most focused and aggressive political leadership ever exerted by the American Catholic hierarchy . . .

In their plans, the bishops list twenty major Catholic organizations-such as the Knights of Columbus, the Catholic Press Association, the Catholic Physicians Guild, and the Catholic Lawyers Association-then begin to explain political strategy and discuss how each group may participate. This involves getting the National Organizations .. . to inventory their internal political capabilities systematically by means of their own government relations and to establish a communications structure from Washington to the national office of each organization to activate support for the political program.

A primary focus of the bishops campaign is judicial appointment, so as to reverse Supreme Court decisions that legalize abortion. Efforts should be made to reverse the decision, to restrain lower courts from interpreting and applying [Supreme Court decisions] more aggressively and more absolutely than the Supreme Court, the plans dictate. The bishops also urge appointment of judges who can be counted on to oppose abortion.

DR JOHN A. BAER, 1992 - Francis Bellamy (1855 - 1931), a Baptist minister, wrote the original Pledge in August 1892. He was a Christian Socialist. In his Pledge, he is expressing the ideas of his first cousin, Edward Bellamy, author of the American socialist utopian novels, Looking Backward (1888) and Equality (1897). Francis Bellamy in his sermons and lectures and Edward Bellamy in his novels and articles described in detail how the middle class could create a planned economy with political, social and economic equality for all. The government would run a peace time economy similar to our present military industrial complex. The Pledge was published in the September 8th issue of The Youth's Companion, the leading family magazine and the Reader's Digest of its day . . .

In 1954, Congress after a campaign by the Knights of Columbus, added the words, 'under God,' to the Pledge. The Pledge was now both a patriotic oath and a public prayer. Bellamy's granddaughter said he also would have resented this second change. He had been pressured into leaving his church in 1891 because of his socialist sermons. In his retirement in Florida, he stopped attending church because he disliked the racial bigotry he found there.

Donald F. Crosby, Jesuit priest, 1978 - The Knights' pro-McCarthy policy was perfectly congruent with their long history of political conservatism . . . flag-waving patriotism, and their abiding distaste for Protestants, liberals, and intellectuals of every religion."

[Crosby wrote God, Church, and Flag: Senator Joseph R. McCarthy and the Catholic Church, 1950-1957.]

THOMAS PAINE - The study of theology, as it stands in Christian churches, is the study of nothing; it is founded on nothing; it rests on nothing; it proceeds by no authorities; it has no data; it can demonstrate nothing and admits of no conclusion.

Source of Information: Received in e-mail from Robert E. Nordlander June 28, 2002

Dear Robert, [to Robert E. Nordlander]

Your "letter to the editor" appeared in the Racine Journal Times this morning. Below your name was your email address (probably the Journal's way of punishing you for your opinion on this subject). Nevertheless, it also allows me to thank you for the excellent letter.

I also hope the court's ruling holds, as for years I have thought the changes in the pledge were unfounded. I will be surprised if it is not overturned because supporting this ruling, even though it is academically brilliant and morally correct to all, it is more politically correct for our politicians to "hop on the bandwagon" and get favorable publicity whenever they can hide behind God. These are also the same people who vote against programs that help schools, the poor, and the less fortunate while, at the same time, support the defense industry and their buddies who build neat things to really help people.

As a young man I remember when the pledge was changed. I never missed a day of Sunday school in those days; yet, I always wondered what religion had to do with government and my country. I also wondered why I couldn't graduate from high school unless I attended a baccalaureate service conducted by the most conservative minister in town. I'm 60 years old now, and I no longer wonder ... I know! I don't consider myself an atheist, but I don't support a religious organization any longer either. I never liked the words in "under God" in the pledge: yet, to be honest, I feel funny when I leave them out while reciting the pledge at a public function. Group pressure is one of the ways religious buffs get their message across. It is an effective method to spread their beliefs; yet, I have always felt imposed upon when forced to recite those words. I felt the same way about school imposed prayer. I'm not against praying; but, it has no purpose in a public school where there are students with a multitude of varying religious beliefs. Somehow, our politicians find it more convenient to be "religious" than to protect the rights of everyone.

I was a public school teacher for 36 years. During this period of my life I saw many students who refused to say the pledge to the flag. some of my colleagues didn't like this. I always felt that it took a lot of courage to refrain from saying the pledge. I never questioned their reasons, and I never talked behind their back. They were simply practicing their beliefs. I never saw those students trying to convert their classmates to their beliefs by changing a public law.

I feel that one can be patriotic without saying "under God." I believe there is a purpose in separation of church and state. Unfortunately, there is a lot more money supporting the "religious buffs" than those who support the rights of everyone. I'm tired of these religious fanatics using government to further their religious agendas. They have their right to believe what they believe, and I respect that right; but, keep politics and religion separate. (I also disagree with the recent ruling on "school choice" for the same reasons.)

Well, have digressed and wasted too much of your time. I just wanted to send you a letter of support, and thank you for your excellent letter. I'm sorry to have "bent your ear.: yet, I thought you would like a letter supporting your efforts. It was well written.

Sincerely yours,

Gary Erickson
3658 Monterey Drive
Racine, WI 53402

Source of Information: Received in e-mail from Robert E. Nordlander June 28, 2002

From William Van Druten

29 July 02

My editorial as follows has been sent to Newsweek, NYTimes, USAToday and others.

America is a constitutional democracy. Basic rights of minorities are protected even against a majority. Freedom to believe in gods is protected as surely as the freedom not to believe.

After the reflexive shock at the recent Pledge of Allegiance decision, we realize that of course "under God" is unconstitutional. It is easy to understand by considering the opposite case. Clearly a pledge stating, "one nation under no gods" (which would be the preference of over 14 % of Americans) would be equally unfair and unconstitutional.

The pressure to make America a Christian theocracy has been unrelenting in spite of our Constitution. Our national motto for years was "e pluribus unum," meaning from many ethnic groups comes one nation. That wholesome motto was replaced with, "In God We Trust." These changes are unconstitutional on their face. And so called "Ceremonial religious observances" in government such as prayers and chaplains in congress are not harmless tokens. They are a foot in the door that is used to justify additional erosion of Jefferson¹s vital Wall of Separation between Church and State.

Religionists should be the most vocal for governmental neutrality. Our Founding Fathers knew too well how quickly government begins to dictate which god is preferred, which religion is endorsed and which are forbidden.

Would we be apathetic to wake some morning to discover that Fundamentalist Christianity, for example, is the law of the land and that beliefs in creationism, demons, anti-semitism, anti-catholicism, woman's submission to husband are required by law? Such tyranny has happened and will happen. Consider European history; consider present day Ireland, Serbia, Iran, Iraq.

True Americans, believers or not, understand that the freedom of and from religion is best protected by a strictly neutral government.

Source of Information: Received in e-mail from Robert E. Nordlander July 29, 2002

Published 5 Jul 02

Editor, The Post-Crescent:

Those who feel persecuted or put out by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court's pledge decision have got it exactly backwards. No one is telling them they can't privately recite the Pledge of Allegiance, or that their children can't recite the Pledge.

No one is denigrating their belief in God, or saying they can't freely worship any god they choose to. Indeed, no one is saying the phrase "under God" is in itself inappropriate.

What is inappropriate - transparently and egregiously so - is coercing or cajoling others into the profession of a belief they do not hold. As much as supporters of the phrase would like to turn atheists into non-entities (either saying "everyone" can support the watered-down generic "God" of the pledge, or that "only the atheists will object"), it's clear that nonbelievers are as American as anyone else.

Because one may have a different view of patriotism does not make one unpatriotic.

Believers themselves should be at least as offended by the forced recitation of the phrase as atheists. Doesn't it cheapen your heartfelt belief in God when nonbelievers make limp, insincere professions of belief? Doesn't a collective tribute to a deity "everyone" can support mangle the idea of God, or the very specific beliefs you may hold, beyond all usefulness?

We rightly criticize communist countries for denying their citizens the right to profess beliefs in accordance with their own consciences, but to force some children to profess belief in a God they do not believe in is to make the same terrible mistake.

Tom Breuer,

Source of Information: Received in e-mail from Robert E. Nordlander July 5, 2002

Forgotten History : Little known facts and overlooked history

In God We Trust

By Denis Mueller

Throughout this week a furor was raised over the use of the term God. "God" is never referred to in the constitution of the United States. The framers of the constitution thought it wise to separate church and state. After all, thousands had been killed in the name of religion and our forefathers were quite aware of this.

During the 19th century "God" began to appear on the coinage of the United States. But not everybody felt that this was a wise thing. President Theodore Roosevelt was one of them. He did not approve of it and said so by expressing that he had a "very firm conviction that to put a motto on coins... not only does no good but does positive harm." He felt that it trivialized the meaning of God saying that, "the existence of this model on the coins was a constant source of jest and ridicule."

I say this to put the recent controversy in some kind of context. Francis Bellamy wrote the Pledge of Allegiance in 1892. Bellamy was a former pastor and socialist who felt that the ideas expressed in his pledge could be used by all countries. His belief was that truths such as democracy were universal.

In 1924 the politicians got into the act and replaced the words "my flag" with "the flag of the United States of America." Later during the McCarthy era it was changed again and the term "under God" was injected. This was done as a way to separate us from "godless communism." But there was one person who objected and that was Barbara Bellamy Wright. She said the reference to God changed the meaning of the pledge. She felt changing the words from "one nation, indivisible" to "one nation under God" altered its purpose which was to unite the nation.

Now the pundits and the politicians are falling all over each other in the bitter denunciation of a Ninth Circuit decision. But the truth is buried in the rhetoric of such pious talk. In fact, the Supreme Court had ruled a half century ago that any law that made school children salute the flag and recite pledge allegiance was unconstitutional.

It should not be forgotten that this was done during the Second World War. Justice Robert H. Jackson writing for the court said. "It is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or matters of opinion." Americans who knew that they were fighting for freedom and a better world praised this decision. It seems to me that we are backsliding. The media has embraced a jingoistic pose and wrapped itself around the flag. Maybe they should read something about American History and what this country stands for.

Source: Arthur Schlesinger Jr.

Source of Information: Received in e-mail from Robert E. Nordlander July 10, 2002

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