JULY 2002
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Pledge of Allegiance
not a prayer

Confused about the Pledge of Allegiance issue in our public schools? Perhaps this commentary will help sort out this issue.

About the author of Pledge of Allegiance not a prayer: Helping to save one child's life is a monumental task James Kraemer takes seriously. His popular school bus safety Web sites consume an average four hours each day of volunteer time, up to seven days a week. Kraemer, a veteran school bus driver and founder of 2safeschools.org, is a member of the National Safety Council and author of the book, "Dangerous School Buses - What school bus drivers, school staff and parents must know to help keep kids safe," expected to be published in 2003. Kraemer often presents unique opinions that can sometimes be in conflict with school bus industry and related government agencies views. The opinions expressed in his commentaries are his own and are not necessarily those of 2safeschools sponsorships or other participants related to 2safeschools school bus safety education activities.

By James Kraemer
©2002, All Rights Reserved. May be reprinted with permission from 2safeschools.

M ost experts agree the Pledge of Allegiance was written on September 8, 1892 by Francis Bellamy. He was an assistant editor of The Youth's Companion, a national family magazine for youth published in Boston, Mass. The Youth's Companion Magazine claimed the largest national circulation of its day, around 500 thousand issues.

According to the Family Education Network (www.fen.com), the authorship of the Pledge of Allegiance was in dispute between James B. Upham and Francis Bellamy of the Youth's Companion Magazine's staff. In 1939, after a study of the controversy, the United States Flag Association decided that authorship be credited to Bellamy.

Experts agree that the Pledge of Allegiance was written for children at school to recite on Columbus Day (1892). The Pledge of Allegiance was so well liked that it became a daily ritual.

The phrase -under God- was added to the pledge on June 14, 1954, in an apparent effort to separate America's ideals from communist ideals.

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My best understanding, concerning the value and meaning of the Pledge of Allegiance came from Red Skelton, a comedian my Dad enjoyed when viewing the popular television series, The Red Skelton Hour. On occasion I would sit with my parents and watch that show.

In 1969 Red Skelton talked about the Pledge of Allegiance during a commentary presented on his TV show. I missed it.

Had I heard his presentation back then, when Red Skelton said these things, I'd likely thought it was dumb. Regardless, I would have most certainly remained respectful, since both my parents would have tolerated nothing less from me when concerning flag and country.

Decades later, as a result of a federal appeals court panel drawing so much outrage from across America, by ruling that it is unconstitutional for classrooms to recite the Pledge of Allegiance, brought about my first reading of what Red Skelton said in 1969. (What he said is posted at the end of this commentary.)

I still don't personally think religion belongs in public schools. Regardless of that thought, can agree that the founding Christian ethic, the ethic imbedded in this great country's beginnings and early history, does belong in our public schools.

The Pledge of Allegiance is an extension of this great country's diverse historical foundation.

According to author John W. Baer, in his commentary, "The Strange Origin of the Pledge of Allegiance," from Propaganda Review (Summer 89), said that, "One hundred years ago the American Flag was rarely seen in the classroom or in front of the school."

To summarize Baer's thoughts, concerning motives behind the making of the Pledge of Allegiance, it appears he says that James Upham, a liberal businessmen and owner of the magazine, The Youth's Companion, wanted to sell flags. In 1888, using the magazine, he began a campaign to sell American flags to the public schools. In 1891, Upham had the idea of using the celebration of the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus' discovery of America to promote the use of the flag in the public schools. By 1892, his magazine had sold American flags to about 26 thousand schools.

The pledge of Allegiance a sales pitch to sell flags? Not exactly.

In 1891, Upham also hired his business partner's radical young friend, Baptist minister, Nationalist, and Christian Socialist leader, Francis Bellamy. According to the same author, Baer (above), Upham hired Bellamy to help in his public relations work. "Bellamy was the first cousin of the famous American socialist, Edward Bellamy. Edward Bellamy's futuristic novel, "Looking Backward," published in 1888, described a utopian Boston in the year 2000. The book spawned an elitist socialist movement in Boston known as "Nationalism," whose members wanted the federal government to nationalize most of the American economy. Francis Bellamy was a member of this movement and a vice president of its auxiliary group, the Society of Christian Socialists. He was a baptist minister and he lectured and preached on the virtues of socialism and the evils of capitalism. He gave a speech on "Jesus The Socialist" and a series of sermons on "The Socialism of the Primitive Church." In 1891, he was forced to resign from his Boston church, the Bethany Baptist church, because of his socialist activities. He then joined the staff of the Youth's Companion."

It would appear the Pledge of Allegiance found it's beginnings in the minds of a capitalist salesman and a rejected radical Christian socialist -- both Americans at heart.

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The great Pledge of Allegiance came from a strange blend of bedfellows, each with their own personal agendas. They probably were incapable of actually understanding the astonishing achievement their sales slogan would accomplish for America. One had a radical mind, perhaps a bit fried. The other understood a financial value in their work -- the money -- but would likely have needed a comedian to explain the greater meaning in the words that came from their creation.

Is it appropriate for schools to teach kids to recite the Pledge of allegiance?

Yes. The Pledge of Allegiance is a fascinating achievement from what some would consider strange beginnings. An effective and appropriate explanation of the value and meaning of the Pledge of Allegiance, made by a comedian in 1969, speaks volumes about America and makes the Pledge of Allegiance one of the most worthy historical documents for school children to recite.

Our nation's founders faiths, their belief that there is a Divine Creator -- and the effect of their various faiths on the development of the Constitution, the Bill of Right's, even the Pledge of Allegiance -- have substantial merit and belong in the public school curriculum. Not to do so is like talking about the flower, the stem and the leaves while prohibiting any mention of the roots.

When taken in context the Pledge of Allegiance simply is not in the same category as a religious prayer. This remains the case even though history can not provide a founder's objection to prayer in the classroom where a school's teachers and parents have worked together to make that happen.

A look at our nation's heritage can reveal rather quickly that the "separation of church and state clause" is a MYTH and a DISTRACTION, not a fact embodied in the Constitution or the Bill of Rights. The First Act of Congress, following their agreement of the precise wording of the First Amendment -- "Congress shall make no law concerning the establishment of religion" (means no establishing a nationalized church) or prohibiting the free exercise thereof" (means no promoting of atheism as well) -- was to ask President Washington to declare a national day of fasting and prayer. Does this sound like a call for the elimination of prayer from the public environment?

When looking at the root issue, the attempts to remove prayer and the phrase "God" from public schools, this should be considered the actual strange activity that has wrought havoc and rejection upon America's public schools over the years. In reality, and regardless of the strange history of the Pledge of Allegiance, that creation helped bring unity to our public schools.

Certainly, in the case of American history, the churches can teach a more accurate account than can public schools. Churches can say "God" and include the word "God" in their classroom discussions. This is important simply because:

"The great political idea, sanctifying freedom and consecrating it to God, teaching men to treasure the liberties of others as their own, and to defend them for the love of justice and charity more than as a right, has been the soul of what is great and good in the progress of the last two hundred years." --John Emerich Edward Dalberg Acton (Lord Acton, 1843-1902) renown English historian and Regius Professor of Modern History at Cambridge University, England.
The Declaration of Independence mentions "God" four times.

The 1846 treaty ending the war between the U.S. and Mexico, giving the U.S. California, Colorado, Arizona, Utah and Nevada begins with the words, "In the name of Almighty God."

The 1875 Treaty of Paris, ending the Revolutionary War between the U.S. and England, contain the words, "... in the name of the Most Holy and undivided Trinity..."

All 50 continental states mention "God" in their Constitutions.

The Constitution itself includes the statement, "In the year of our Lord ..."

References to "God" is virtually endless throughout American history. The word "God" shows up in historical documents and on government buildings, I would think in every major city with older buildings -- even on some old public school buildings.

"God Save The United States And This Honorable Court," are the words spoken out the mouth of the Court's Marshal when the Supreme Court justices enter the courtroom to hear arguments or give decisions.

Dare any public school employee say Amen to that? (jk) Click Here to post your comments on this article.

UPDATE: As of August 2003, Colorado became the 33rd state to require schools to include the pledge sometime during the school day. -- Associated Press

(Note: Several quotes in this commentary compiled from the Library of Congress and from the book, "America's God and Country: Encyclopedia of Quotations, by William J. Federer, Fame Publishing; ISBN: 1880563053; 8th edition).

I Pledge Allegiance -- About Nobel Red Skelton
Red Skelton (1913 - 1997)
Red Skelton
(1913 - 1997)

According to the International Shrine Clown Association, it was as a star in over 48 motion pictures and on television that Red Skelton achieved his greatest public acclaim. His TV career spanned a record twenty consecutive years and his shows were rated among the top ten in America. Skelton's affection for the Pledge of Allegiance began as a schoolboy at Harrison School in Vincennes, Indiana. One of his teachers and the principal of the school, Mr. Laswell, felt his students had come to think of the Pledge of Allegiance as merely something to recite in class each day. Laswell proceeded to explain the words and meaning of the Pledge of Allegiance to his class. On January 14, 1969, Skelton, in a short commentary on his television series, The Red Skelton Hour, spoke seriously for a moment about the Pledge of Allegiance. He concluded with an interesting observation: "... Wouldn't it be a pity if someone said that [the Pledge of allegiance] is a prayer, and that would be eliminated from schools, too?" "Skelton's Pledge of Allegiance" has won 42 awards and was read into the Congressional Record on two occassions. Red Skelton's TV audio of his Pledge of Allegiance commentary and more about Nobel Red Skelton is available from the International Shrine Clown Association.

Skelton's Pledge of Allegiance


me, an individual, a committee of one.


dedicate all of my worldly goods to live without self-pity.


my love and my devotion.

to the Flag

Our standard; Old Glory; a symbol of Freedom; wherever she waves there is respect, because your loyalty has given her a dignity that shouts, Freedom is everybody's job.

of the United

that means we have all come together.

States of America,

Individual communities that have united into forty-eight great states. Forty-eight individual communities with pride and dignity and purpose. All divided with imaginary boundaries, yet united to a common purpose, and that's love for country.

and to the Republic

a state in which sovereign power is invested in representatives chosen by the people to govern. And government is the people; and it's from the people to the leaders, not from the leaders to the people.

for which it stands;
one nation,

meaning, so blessed by God.


incapable of being divided.

with liberty

which is freedom and the right of power to live one's own life without threats or fear of some sort of retaliation.

and justice

the principle of quality of dealing fairly with others.

for all.

which means, boys and girls, it's as much your country as it is mine.

Mr. Skelton Continues:

And now, boys and girls, let me hear you recite the Pledge of Allegiance:

I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic, for which it stands; one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

A concluding observation from Mr. Skelton:

"Since I was a small boy, two states have been added to our country, and two words have been added to the Pledge of Allegiance: Under God. Wouldn't it be a pity if someone said that is a prayer, and that would be eliminated from schools, too?" --Red Skelton (January 14, 1969)

Click here for a strange lesson plan on the Pledge of Allegiance.

The Strange Origin of the Pledge of Allegiance, by John W. Baer, from Propaganda Review, Summer 89, presented at the Central Washington University Web site.

Your Comments on this article - Subject: Pledge of Allegiance
Free school bus safety photos - Need a photo or graphic for a newsletter, brochure or your Website? You will find plenty of free graphics and ideas at 2safeschools Yellow Tin Can.
Teachers.Net - A national web site for teachers of all disciplines at all grade levels. Provides many resources. Beth Burno writes a regular column at teachers.net called "Schoolhouse Views."
2safeschools Teachers Webring - over 300 teachers nationwide ready to share their web pages. You'll find a nation's worth of ideas for all grade levels in this webring."
SNET's Internet Features Page - An excellent web site for parents and teachers, features articles relevant to the home, school and the community environment.
2safeschools Awards Centre - Does your web page include a safety suggestion, flyer or article. If it does, apply for your personalized 2safeschools "Helping Hand Award." No safety pages or flyers? Link to 2safeschools free templates page or to our directory or other 2safeschools page of your choice, then apply for your award; Directory Link: http://www.delphi.com/2safeschools
More 2safeschools link info
A Mother's Story - What this mom did when the school and therapy failed her out-of-control son. Excellent reading for Parents and School Staff dealing with an out-of-control teen and nothing else has worked.
A Librarianís Story - A 10-year veteran of the King County, (Washington State) Public Library resigned rather than carry out library policy of providing children with pornography.
How to help keep your child's school bus safe - A short article from "In Loving Memory."

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