Pledge of Allegiance Unconstitutional?

Is the phrase “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance a religious or political statement?  Does reciting it constitute a prayer or some kind of forced devotion, or does it merely acknowledge a national philosophy and tradition that seeks a balance between faith and secularism?

This was part of the question the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals was asked to consider as it heard arguments challenging the constitutionality of a New Hampshire statute that requires school districts to provide time for public elementary students to recite the Pledge of Allegiance.  The appeal stemmed from a 2009 dismissal of a case filed by the group Freedom From Religion on behalf of a group of parents and students challenging the practice in two separate New Hampshire school districts.

The group challenged the statute on the grounds that it violates the First Amendment establishment clause.  The group challenged the basic premise that the phrase does not advance a religious agenda and instead reflects a nod to the political philosophy that Americans have inalienable rights and argued that patriotism and religious ideology had merged in a constitutionally impermissible fashion.

In defending the suit the district relied heavily on the fact that the law provided for voluntary recitation of the pledge and that in practice, how the pledge is recited is up to the principle of each school.

If students do not want to participate in the recitation they have the option to sit or stand quietly while the others finish.

This is not the only case challenging the Pledge of Allegiance.  Currently the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has a petition for review of an earlier ruling that the pledge did not violate the establishment clause. 

Should the 1st Circuit rule that there is in fact an establishment clause violation in this case it sets the stage for intervention by the Supreme Court to resolve the split between the federal appellate circuits, giving the Roberts Court the final say on the matter.  Given the current makeup of the Court I’m not so sure this is the strategy those challenging the pledge want to take.

photo courtesy of stevendepolo via Flickr


deadra u.
deadra u4 years ago

Adding Under God was done in the McCarthy era and it is not valid today. There is a great percentage of Americans who are Atheists and Agnostics , therefore God should not be mixed with government and especially in a pledge. That is forcing religious beliefs on citizens. Religion is a private thing.

Richard S.
Richard S.6 years ago

The pledge, which was written by a socialist minister, was altered during the McCarthy era during the cold war.

My question is why do we need to refer to god in it at all. Are those who want it in the pledge so insecure in their religious beliefs or feel that they have not passed on their religious beliefs to their children that they want the "state" to reinforce what they have been unable to do?

Do those who want it in the pledge really believe that by trying to force people to acknowledge something they don't believe in that minds will be changed?

The number of non-believers is rising in this country as it is around the world. The latest numbers are around 16% of Americans are atheists or agnostics. We are a country that respects the rights of the minority. No one is saying the religious have to stop praying or believing in god. We are saying their beliefs shouldn't be forced onto others.

Lastly, all to often it's the same people who want less government and less government in our lives who fight to have religion in government. If we force people to include god in the pledge, then what happens when those in power want a specific god or mention of other religious symbols that are not universal? It's a slippery slope.

Robert P D.
Robert Doyle6 years ago

GoodOrderlyDirection=GOD period. The pledge we learned prior to the inclusion of the word G_O_D was fine. The addition of a Congressionally approved inclusion of a religion is not in keeping with the U.S. Constitution. Whether that change marks the beginning of a PSYOP to slowly change the dynamic of abiding by the U.S. Constitution or perhaps another equally illegal action by the U.S. Congress is open to debate. The fact is, that one small word is not stressful in and of itself. The problem here in the now of 2011 is more complex. We have an entire Federal Government operating without the LAWS of the U.S. Constitution. So, personally, I went to a war to defend that flag and the way of life my Baby Boomer self undrstood. Fortunately, I have grown up and do include the disgust with the mindset of the crowd who find solace in remaining ignorant of truth. The Truth is, 99% of Americans are the victims of the 1% who were able to escape detection while emptying the U.S. Treasury over a 40 yr. span. Faux Noise fans, go "F" yourself.

Jamie Clemons
Jamie Clemons6 years ago

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

Jamie Clemons
Jamie Clemons6 years ago

I don't understand why we can't go back to the original pledge of allegiance that did not have the words under God in it. Why was it ever altered in the first place? Why can't people pledge allegiance to their country without being all religious about it?

Scarlett P.
Scarlett P6 years ago

When you take God out you find chaos... Look at our country today.. One Nation... Under God... God Bless American...

The book of Genesis tells us that God created man in His own image, forming man from the dust of the earth and breathing into his nostrils the breath of life (Genesis 1:26-27; 2:7).

What has Allah, Shiva, Buddha done for you lately??? LOL

Annmari Lundin
Annmari L6 years ago

Chan Tlalok Rain C. : Don't be sorry for seeing the pledge for what it is.

Pat K.
Pat K.7 years ago

If believing that the Pledge of Allegiance should be said in schools makes me a communist, then so be it. yes, this country was founded on diversity and it was AFTER that that the Pledge of Allegiance was written as was the Constitution. Does everyone have to pledge allegiance? No, but everyone should show respect and not stop others who believe in this country from doing it - that is communism!

Sarah D.
Sarah D7 years ago

The pledge of allegiance is biased and silly and dishonest. It should be revised. This is not "one nation under God", it's a nation under diversity. It's not a Christian nation or any kind of religious nation but it's also not an Atheist nation. There is no justice for all, especially where people don't want LGBT persons to have certain rights or women to have a say in what happens with their bodies and we have a poor justice system. America plays favorites and it's become a superficial and a lazy and ridiculously hypocritical country.

Blast Dorrough
Blast Dorrough7 years ago

If your're not ready to stand up for the rights of all citizens under our Constitution, O'Leary, you don't stand for liberty and freedom. Calling yourself a patriot does not make you one. What you stand for does. If you don't stand up for the Constitution that many Founding Guards from all walks of life died for then I invite you to get out. You believe waving the flag is all there is to patriotism. How about standing up and waving the Constitution, O'Leary. There's too many hiding behind the flag already while making mockery of the Constitution in the name of patriotism and God. The American Revolution was not only fought against the evil of Kingcraft but Corporatecraft and Christiancraft as well.