The Pledge of Allegiance has been a weekly, sometimes daily, tradition and practice in public school systems across the nation. Yet, in recent years, people challenge the traditional practice because of two words that arguably violate the Constitution and people’s religious freedom — the words “under God.”
“I retired from teaching just last year, and although I would recite the pledge with my class, it was only on special occasions,” said Shauna Gertsch, a former elementary education teacher from Salt Lake County. “There was just too much risk reciting the pledge often … we walked on egg shells with both parents and administrative faculty.”
Supporters of the lobby to exclude the words from the Pledge of Allegiance, or the practice itself, entirely, claim that it directly violates constitutional guidelines and the separation of church and state.
“We no longer live in a world where discrimination is acceptable in any form, “ said Benjamin Howard, a Sandy resident, who actively discusses his opinions in online forums. “Although it is hard to change such a mainstream American tradition, those words are too exclusionary for a nation’s government.”
According to a trending poll on www.debate.org, 57 percent of adult respondents believe the words “under God” do not belong in the Pledge of Allegiance.
“I think people are becoming more adaptable and can separate themselves between their religious beliefs and their political beliefs,” said Connor Kitchins, a senior studying political science at the University of Utah.
The Pledge of Allegiance was first created in 1892, but it wasn’t until the third rendition of the pledge in 1954 that the words “under God” were added and approved by the U.S. government.
“People don’t realize that a reference to a higher power was not the original intention of our nation’s pledge,” said Kitchins. “We need to restore its original purpose, which is patriotism to our country, not a unified confession to God.”
Although there have been no further renditions made or accepted by the government since 1954, the U.S. Supreme Court has declared the recitation of the pledge in public schools to be unconstitutional.
In 2002, the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Newdow v. United States Congress resulted in the court ruling “under God” to be an endorsement of religion and therefore a violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, according to www.constitution.org.
However, many state governments and people continue to challenge the Supreme Court’s decision.
“The word ‘God’ is intertwined in a multitude of capacities within our government, even the presidential oath,” said Kimberly Newman, an undeclared sophomore at BYU. “I can’t imagine excluding the words ‘under God’ from the pledge because God is directly related to the faith of America’s people.”
Newman isn’t far off.
According to a poll conducted in 2013 by CNN, 76 percent of U.S. adults professed a belief in God.
“Taking God from America would be destructive. It would not only deface her, but it would deface all of the millions of people who have identified themselves with what she has always represented — hope and faith,” Newman said.