This Letter to the Editor was in response to William Liu ’24’s opinion in the March 2022 edition of The Bradford titled “Why We Should Abolish the Pledge of Allegiance in Schools”.
Written to the editors by Abraham Budson-McQuilken ’22
When the pandemic swept us out of the classroom, many long standing traditions were interrupted. One of the traditions set aside during this time of tumult was the daily Pledge of Allegiance. The prolonged absence of the morning Pledge has prompted questions regarding the necessity of this sacred rite.
While not immune to controversy, the Pledge has long served a unifying oath, spoken at the start of every day. Students have recited the Pledge for more than one hundred and thirty years since its creation in 1892. Written as the wounds inflicted by the Civil War were still fresh, the affirmation of loyalty was composed for the 1893 World’s Columbian Exhibition in Chicago. The Pledge would prove popular nationally, with it being introduced in schools across the country.
In 1954, during the height of Soviet aggression and tyranny, the phrase “under God” was added to the Pledge to reaffirm our commitment to the ideals upon which our country was founded. Going back to the earliest days of our republic, God has been invoked as a granter of liberties and freedoms. In our Declaration of Independence from the tyranny of British colonial rule Jefferson unequivocally states that it is our Creator who grants the rights to which all Americans are entitled. Our public servants have long ended their oaths with the phrase “so help me God” and our national motto officially adopted in 1965, and first used on coins in 1864, is “in God we trust.” Additionally, lest we forget that Lincoln first uttered the words “under God” during his Gettysburg address, advocating for a new national birth of freedom. To say that God is not a deeply ingrained part of American civil tradition is unequivocally false.
Yet the phrase “under God” remains contentious to some. The Supreme Court of the United States ruled in the 2004 case Newdow v. Elk Grove unanimously to protect the phrase “under God.” This precedent was re-affirmed in Massachusetts by the 2014 case Doe v. Acton Boxborough Regional School District in which the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled seven to zero in favor of Acton Boxborough. The majority opinion stating, “Although the words ‘under God’ undeniably have a religious tinge, courts that have considered the history of the Pledge and the presence of those words have consistently concluded that the Pledge, notwithstanding its reference to God, is a fundamentally patriotic exercise, not a religious one.”
It is the clear opinion of the state’s highest court and the Supreme Court that the phrase “under God” does not pose a threat to free speech or religious expression. Some have argued that the Pledge of Allegiance itself is despotic in nature, but to compare the Pledge of Allegiance, an optional oath, to the menace of Nazi tyranny and cheapens the very real suffering and struggled of the peoples of Europe and Asia subject to the horrors of the gestapo and the holocaust.
During a time in which our country is suffering more division than it has for a long time it is important that we remember we all share a nation, and a flag. To remove this unifying symbol now would be not only harmful but detrimental to the future continuity of our republic. The Pledge of Allegiance has provided a strong sense of unity for over a century, and throughout the many struggles we have endured, as a nation, and as a community, the Pledge has always been there to remind us we are more similar than different.
To suggest that Wellesley Public Schools should abandon the longstanding tradition of the Pledge of Allegiance is not only absurd on the face of it, but offensive and obscene.
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