We get so fixated on which version of the Pledge of Allegiance that we want to strong-arm children into reciting that every time the argument over its wording winds up in court, we blow our chance to teach kids everything they need to know about America.

We're about to do it again. A California judge put the pledge back in the news and back on its way to the U.S. Supreme Court, ruling the words "under God" are unconstitutional. The ruling only affects a few school districts in California for now, but that's enough for politicians to condemn judges and pass resolutions (as a unanimous U.S. Senate did a few years back) demonstrating just how little they understand what the flag stands for.

We could start by pointing out to school kids how the "one nation" part of the pledge becomes meaningless every time we talk about the "under God" part, which causes all kinds of divisions. Mostly among people who have no idea where the pledge came from or who wrote it.

It wasn't Thomas Jefferson or James Madison. The Pledge of Allegiance was composed in 1892 by a Baptist minister and socialist named Francis Bellamy. The original pledge written by him read: "I pledge allegiance to my flag and to the republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."

The words "my flag" were changed to "the flag of the United States of America" in the 1920s. Congress added the words "under God" in 1954, when the greatest threat to the United States was the "godless" Soviet Union.

One nation (not always), under God (since 1954)


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