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Columbus Day and the Pledge of Allegiance
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To honor the 400th anniversary of Columbus' voyage to the Americas, a minister named Francis Bellamy composed the Pledge of Allegiance for school children--a short and easy pledge accompanied by a salute, arm straight out, slightly raised, palm up.

The original Pledge read, "I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all." It said nothing about equality, since many people opposed equal rights for women (they would not get the right to vote for another 30 years) and, of course, for people of color.

I do not know how a Pledge written by a Christian Socialist minister became a concern of national leaders, but President Benjamin Harrison's proclamation for its use on Columbus Day in 1892 was followed by amendments and Supreme Court Decisions and a change in the salute by FDR.

In 1940 the Supreme Court said that students in public schools could be compelled to recite the Pledge, even if their religious beliefs were opposed to such an action. Three years later the Supreme Court reversed the decision, stating that "compulsory unification of opinion" violated the First Amendment.

The Knights of Columbus tried several times to persuade the government to amend the pledge to include a reference to a deity, "under God." President Dwight Eisenhower was so impressed by a sermon given during a Lincoln Day service and the minister's insistence that the words be added, that the very next day, President Eisenhower initiated the process in Congress to incorporate the phrase.

The Pledge of Allegiance had gone from a children's recitation to become a matter for Congress to legislate upon, and Eisenhower signed the bill into law on Flag Day, 1954, (June 14th for those of you who have forgotten).

I remember the following September when we were all required to recite the Pledge, hands over our hearts (thanks to FDR's change), including "under God" in the wording.

Note to Sarah Palin: The Founding Fathers did NOT write the Pledge of Allegiance.

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