Why we're not "one nation under God"

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  1. YWN666

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    Why we're not one nation "under God." - By David Greenberg - Slate Magazine

    The Pledge of Allegiance
    Why we're not one nation "under God."

    By David Greenberg
    Updated Friday, June 28, 2002, at 4:39 PM ET
    Poor Alfred Goodwin! So torrential was the flood of condemnation that followed his opinion—which held that it's unconstitutional for public schools to require students to recite "under God" as part of the Pledge of Allegiance—that the beleaguered appellate-court judge suspended his own ruling until the whole 9th Circuit Court has a chance to review the case.

    Not one major political figure summoned the courage to rebut the spurious claims that America's founders wished to make God a part of public life. It's an old shibboleth of those who want to inject religion into public life that they're honoring the spirit of the nation's founders. In fact, the founders opposed the institutionalization of religion. They kept the Constitution free of references to God. The document mentions religion only to guarantee that godly belief would never be used as a qualification for holding office—a departure from many existing state constitutions. That the founders made erecting a church-state wall their first priority when they added the Bill of Rights to the Constitution reveals the importance they placed on maintaining what Isaac Kramnick and R. Laurence Moore have called a "godless Constitution." When Benjamin Franklin proposed during the Constitutional Convention that the founders begin each day of their labors with a prayer to God for guidance, his suggestion was defeated.

    Given this tradition, it's not surprising that the original Pledge of Allegiance—meant as an expression of patriotism, not religious faith—also made no mention of God. The pledge was written in 1892 by the socialist Francis Bellamy, a cousin of the famous radical writer Edward Bellamy. He devised it for the popular magazine Youth's Companion on the occasion of the nation's first celebration of Columbus Day. Its wording omitted reference not only to God but also, interestingly, to the United States:

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

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