Knights of Columbus ~ Pledge of Allegiance
The Knights of Columbus
and the Pledge of Allegiance
The Knights of Columbus played a large role in the addition of “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance. When the Pledge was originally written by Francis Bellamy in 1892, it originally read:
“I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
After a proclamation by President Benjamin Harrison, the Pledge was first used in public schools on October 12, 1892, during Columbus Day observances organized to coincide with the opening of the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago, Illinois.
In 1923 the National Flag Conference called for the words “my Flag” to be changed to “the Flag of the United States”, for the benefit of new immigrants, and the words “of America” were added a year later. The United States Congress officially recognized the Pledge as the official national pledge on June 22, 1942. At a meeting on February 12, 1948, Lincoln’s Birthday, Louis A. Bowman, Chaplain of the Illinois Society of the Sons of the American Revolution, led the Society in swearing the Pledge with two words added, “under God.” Bowman repeated his revised version of the Pledge at subsequent meetings.
Three years later, in 1951, the Knights of Columbus, the world’s largest Catholic fraternal service organization, also began including the words “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance. On April 30, 1951, the Board of Directors of the Knights of Columbus adopted a resolution to amend the text of their Pledge of Allegiance at the opening of each of the meetings of the 800 Fourth Degree Assemblies of the Knights of Columbus by adding the words “under God” after the words “one nation.” Over the next two years, the idea spread throughout Knights of Columbus organizations nationwide. At the annual meeting on August 21, 1952, the Supreme Council of the Knights of Columbus adopted a resolution urging that the change be made universal and copies of this resolution were sent to the President, the Vice President (as Presiding Officer of the Senate) and the Speaker of the House of Representatives. The National Fraternal Congress meeting in Boston on September 24, 1952, adopted a similar resolution upon the recommendation of its president, Supreme Knight Luke E. Hart. Several State Fraternal Congresses acted likewise almost immediately thereafter. This campaign led to several failed attempts to prompt Congress to adopt the Knights of Columbus’ policy for the entire nation. DOWNLOAD the story here.
On February 7, 1954, President Eisenhower, who had been baptized a Presbyterian just a year before, attended a service honoring Abraham Lincoln at the New York Avenue Presbyterian Church. At that service, Rev. George Docherty delivered a sermon based on the Gettysburg Address arguing that the nations’ might not lay in arms but its spirit and higher purpose. Docherty noted that the Pledge’s sentiments could be those of any nation, that “there was something missing in the pledge, and that which was missing was the characteristic and definitive factor in the American way of life.” He cited Lincoln’s words “under God” as defining words that set the United States apart from other nations. President Eisenhower said that he agreed with the sermon. In the following weeks, the news spread, and public opinion grew. Three days later, Senator Homer Ferguson, (R-MI), sponsored a bill in Congress to add “under God” to the Pledge; which was approved as a joint resolution June 8, 1954, and signed into law on Flag Day, June 14, 1954 by President Eisenhower.
If the Pledge’s historical pattern repeats, its words will be modified during this decade. Some prolife advocates recite the following slightly revised Pledge: ‘I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all, born and unborn.’
From a speech made by Capt. John S. McCain, US, (Rep) who represents Arizona in the U.S. Senate:
As you may know, I spent five and one half years as a prisoner of war during the Vietnam War. In the early years of our imprisonment, the NVA kept us in solitary confinement or two or three to a cell. In 1971 the NVA moved us from these conditions of isolation into large rooms with as many as 30 to 40 men to a room. This was, as you can imagine, a wonderful change and was a direct result of the efforts of millions of Americans on behalf of a few hundred POWs 10,000 miles from home.
One of the men who moved into my room was a young man named Mike Christian. Mike came from a small town near Selma, Alabama. He didn’t wear a pair of shoes until he was 13 years old.
At 17, he enlisted in the US Navy. He later earned a commission by going to Officer Training School. Then he became a Naval Flight Officer and was shot down and captured in 1967.
Mike had a keen and deep appreciation of the opportunities this country, and our military, provide for people who want to work and want to succeed. As part of the change in treatment, the Vietnamese allowed some prisoners to receive packages from home. In some of these packages were handkerchiefs, scarves and other items of clothing. Mike got himself a bamboo needle.
Over a period of a couple of months, he created an American flag and sewed it on the inside of his shirt. Every afternoon, before we had a bowl of soup, we would hang Mike’s shirt on the wall of the cell and say the Pledge of Allegiance. I know the Pledge of Allegiance may not seem the most important part of our day now, but I can assure you that in that stark cell, it was indeed the most important and meaningful event.
One day the Vietnamese searched our cell, as they did periodically, and discovered Mike’s shirt with the flag sewn inside, and removed it. That evening they returned, opened the door of the cell, and for the benefit of all us, beat Mike Christian severely for the next couple of hours.
Then, they opened the door of the cell and threw him in. We cleaned him up as well as we could. The cell in which we lived had a concrete slab in the middle on which we slept. Four naked light bulbs hung in each corner of the room. As I said, we tried to clean up Mike as well as we could. After the excitement died down, I looked in the corner of the room, and sitting there beneath that dim light bulb with a piece of red cloth, another shirt and his bamboo needle, was my friend, Mike Christian. He was sitting there with his eyes almost shut from the beating he had received, making another American flag.
He was not making the flag because it made Mike Christian feel better. He was making that flag because he knew how important it was to us to be able to pledge our allegiance to our flag and country.
So the next time you say the Pledge of Allegiance, you must never forget the sacrifice and courage that thousands of Americans have made to build our nation and promote freedom around the world.
You must remember our duty, our honor, and our country.
“I pledge allegiance to the flag
of the United States of America,
and to the Republic, for which it stands,
one nation, under God,
indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”