The Pledge of Allegiance, written in 1892 by Frances Bellamy, a Baptist socialist minister from upstate New York, and adopted by Congress as a formal recitation in 1942, had the words “under God” (“one nation, under God, indivisible . . . “) added to it by an act of Congress that President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed on this date, “Flag Day,” in 1954. The addition, and the Pledge itself, had already been challenged several times in court (notably by Jehovah’s Witnesses) when Michael Newdow, a Jewish atheist from Teaneck, NJ, won a 2002 case against this endorsement of monotheism in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Newdow’s victory was overturned by the Supreme Court, however, which ruled that he lacked standing in the case because he was not the custodial parent of his daughter. Alarmed by this near-miss, conservatives in Congress attempted to strip the courts of authority in Pledge cases in 2005, but the bill died in the Senate. Several suits on behalf of a child’s right not to say the Pledge (and not to be persecuted or ridiculed for this) have been won in recent years, allowing high courts also to rule that the Pledge is not an imposition of monotheistic faith — as long as participation in its recitation is voluntary.
“Liberty and justice were surely basic, were undebatable, and were all that any one Nation could handle. If they were exercised for all they involved the [French Revolution’s] spirit of equality and fraternity.” —Francis Bellamy