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Notes on Section 4. Pledge of allegiance to the flag; manner of delivery


Pub. L. 107-293, Sec. 1, Nov. 13, 2002, 116 Stat. 2057, provided that: "Congress finds the following:

"(1) On November 11, 1620, prior to embarking for the shores of America, the Pilgrims signed the Mayflower Compact that declared: 'Having undertaken, for the Glory of God and the advancement of the Christian Faith and honor of our King and country, a voyage to plant the first colony in the northern parts of Virginia,'.

"(2) On July 4, 1776, America's Founding Fathers, after appealing to the 'Laws of Nature, and of Nature's God' to justify their separation from Great Britain, then declared: 'We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness'.

"(3) In 1781, Thomas Jefferson, the author of the Declaration of Independence and later the Nation's third President, in his work titled 'Notes on the State of Virginia' wrote: 'God who gave us life gave us liberty. And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are of the Gift of God. That they are not to be violated but with His wrath? Indeed, I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that his justice cannot sleep forever.'

"(4) On May 14, 1787, George Washington, as President of the Constitutional Convention, rose to admonish and exhort the delegates and declared: 'If to please the people we offer what we ourselves disapprove, how can we afterward defend our work? Let us raise a standard to which the wise and the honest can repair; the event is in the hand of God!'

"(5) On July 21, 1789, on the same day that it approved the Establishment Clause concerning religion, the First Congress of the United States also passed the Northwest Ordinance, providing for a territorial government for lands northwest of the Ohio River, which declared: 'Religion, morality, and knowledge, being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged.'

"(6) On September 25, 1789, the First Congress unanimously approved a resolution calling on President George Washington to proclaim a National Day of Thanksgiving for the people of the United States by declaring, 'a day of public thanksgiving and prayer, to be observed by acknowledging, with grateful hearts, the many signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a constitution of government for their safety and happiness.'

"(7) On November 19, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln delivered his Gettysburg Address on the site of the battle and declared: 'It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this Nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that Government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.'

"(8) On April 28, 1952, in the decision of the Supreme Court of the United States in Zorach v. Clauson, 343 U.S. 306 (1952), in which school children were allowed to be excused from public schools for religious observances and education, Justice William O. Douglas, in writing for the Court stated: 'The First Amendment, however, does not say that in every and all respects there shall be a separation of Church and State. Rather, it studiously defines the manner, the specific ways, in which there shall be no concern or union or dependency one on the other. That is the common sense of the matter. Otherwise the State and religion would be aliens to each other — hostile, suspicious, and even unfriendly. Churches could not be required to pay even property taxes. Municipalities would not be permitted to render police or fire protection to religious groups. Policemen who helped parishioners into their places of worship would violate the Constitution. Prayers in our legislative halls; the appeals to the Almighty in the messages of the Chief Executive; the proclamations making Thanksgiving Day a holiday; "so help me God" in our courtroom oaths — these and all other references to the Almighty that run through our laws, our public rituals, our ceremonies would be flouting the First Amendment. A fastidious atheist or agnostic could even object to the supplication with which the Court opens each session: "God save the United States and this Honorable Court." '

"(9) On June 15, 1954, Congress passed and President Eisenhower signed into law a statute that was clearly consistent with the text and intent of the Constitution of the United States, that amended the Pledge of Allegiance to read: '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.'

"(10) On July 20, 1956, Congress proclaimed that the national motto of the United States is 'In God We Trust', and that motto is inscribed above the main door of the Senate, behind the Chair of the Speaker of the House of Representatives, and on the currency of the United States.

"(11) On June 17, 1963, in the decision of the Supreme Court of the United States in Abington School District v. Schempp, 374 U.S. 203 (1963), in which compulsory school prayer was held unconstitutional, Justices Goldberg and Harlan, concurring in the decision, stated: 'But untutored devotion to the concept of neutrality can lead to invocation or approval of results which partake not simply of that noninterference and noninvolvement with the religious which the Constitution commands, but of a brooding and pervasive devotion to the secular and a passive, or even active, hostility to the religious. Such results are not only not compelled by the Constitution, but, it seems to me, are prohibited by it. Neither government nor this Court can or should ignore the significance of the fact that a vast portion of our people believe in and worship God and that many of our legal, political, and personal values derive historically from religious teachings. Government must inevitably take cognizance of the existence of religion and, indeed, under certain circumstances the First Amendment may require that it do so.'

"(12) On March 5, 1984, in the decision of the Supreme Court of the United States in Lynch v. Donelly, 465 U.S. 668 (1984), in which a city government's display of a nativity scene was held to be constitutional, Chief Justice Burger, writing for the Court, stated: 'There is an unbroken history of official acknowledgment by all three branches of government of the role of religion in American life from at least 1789 . . . [E]xamples of reference to our religious heritage are found in the statutorily prescribed national motto "In God We Trust" (36 U.S.C. 186) [now 36 U.S.C. 302], which Congress and the President mandated for our currency, see (31 U.S.C. 5112(d)(1) (1982 ed.)), and in the language "One Nation under God", as part of the Pledge of Allegiance to the American flag. That pledge is recited by many thousands of public school children — and adults — every year . . . Art galleries supported by public revenues display religious paintings of the 15th and 16th centuries, predominantly inspired by one religious faith. The National Gallery in Washington, maintained with Government support, for example, has long exhibited masterpieces with religious messages, notably the Last Supper, and paintings depicting the Birth of Christ, the Crucifixion, and the Resurrection, among many others with explicit Christian themes and messages. The very chamber in which oral arguments on this case were heard is decorated with a notable and permanent — not seasonal — symbol of religion: Moses with the Ten Commandments. Congress has long provided chapels in the Capitol for religious worship and meditation.'

"(13) On June 4, 1985, in the decision of the Supreme Court of the United States in Wallace v. Jaffree, 472 U.S. 38 (1985), in which a mandatory moment of silence to be used for meditation or voluntary prayer was held unconstitutional, Justice O'Connor, concurring in the judgment and addressing the contention that the Court's holding would render the Pledge of Allegiance unconstitutional because Congress amended it in 1954 to add the words 'under God,' stated 'In my view, the words "under God" in the Pledge, as codified at (36 U.S.C. 172) [now 4 U.S.C. 4], serve as an acknowledgment of religion with "the legitimate secular purposes of solemnizing public occasions, [and] expressing confidence in the future." '

"(14) On November 20, 1992, the United States Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit, in Sherman v. Community Consolidated School District 21, 980 F.2d 437 (7th Cir. 1992), held that a school district's policy for voluntary recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance including the words 'under God' was constitutional.

"(15) The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals erroneously held, in Newdow v. U.S. Congress (9th Cir. June 26, 2002), that the Pledge of Allegiance's use of the express religious reference 'under God' violates the First Amendment to the Constitution, and that, therefore, a school district's policy and practice of teacher-led voluntary recitations of the Pledge of Allegiance is unconstitutional.

"(16) The erroneous rationale of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in Newdow would lead to the absurd result that the Constitution's use of the express religious reference 'Year of our Lord' in Article VII violates the First Amendment to the Constitution, and that, therefore, a school district's policy and practice of teacher-led voluntary recitations of the Constitution itself would be unconstitutional."

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