5 Things You Didn't Know about the Pledge of Allegiance

On December 28, 1945, Congress formally recognized the Pledge of Allegiance in its almost-current form.  Here are 5 things you didn't know about the Pledge of Allegiance....

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The Original Version of The Pledge of Allegiance Did Not Include The Words “Under God” The patriotic oath – attributed to a Baptist minister named Francis Bellamy and published in a children’s magazine in September 1892 to commemorate the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus’ voyage to America – read: “I pledge allegiance to my flag and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”  Congress added “Under God” to the Pledge in 1954 – during the Cold War. Many members of Congress reportedly wanted to emphasize the distinctions between the United States and the officially atheistic Soviet Union.

It Used to Be Legal to Expel Students for Not Saying the Pledge Until 1943, school children could be expelled for not saying the Pledge in school. That issue was resolved in the 1943 Supreme Court decision West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette, which ruled that the right to not speak is equally protected under the First Amendment as the right to free speech.  Unfortunately, some schools still prefer to kick students out, such as happened to a high school senior in Houston, Texas, in 2017, who merely refused to stand during the Pledge. As of September 2018, a District Court judge in Texas has refused to dismiss the case, but the Texas Attorney General has intervened and told the student she must stand. Her attorney has said he'd be willing to go before the Supreme Court.

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The Original Pledge Included a Very Different Salute But that salute was eliminated for a very good reason. Nowadays people put their right hand over their heart, but before 1942, the salute used with the Pledge was a straight right arm raised at a diagonal angle, palm down, fingers extended together and out. Picture that for a moment and you'll likely get why it fell out of favor starting in the 1930s—it's now better known as the salute used by the Nazis. The straight-arm salute was known in the U.S. as the Bellamy salute, after Francis Bellamy, who believed the salute would be a good non-military gesture, even though some sources still call it a military salute. The current hand-over-heart salute is included in the U.S. Flag Code.

School Children First Recited the Pledge on a Holiday School children in America recited the Pledge of Allegiance for the first time on October 12, 1892, which was the 400th anniversary of the voyage of Columbus. It was on April 25, 1893 that adults first publically recited the Pledge in Navesink, New Jersey, while attending a national pole and flag-raising ceremony. The recommendation that the Pledge be used in schools was in 1894 at a convention held by a women’s auxiliary of the Grand Army of the Republic. By 1905, school flag laws had been passed in 19 states.

The Pledge Wasn’t Used in the U.S. Senate Until 1999 Although the Pledge of Allegiance was recognized by the federal government many years earlier, it wasn’t recited in the U.S. House of Representatives before taking up its daily business until September 13, 1988. The U.S. Senate followed suit eleven years later. The pledge is recited by members of the House and Senate following the morning prayer led by the chaplain.