Did you know there have been five official versions of the United States Pledge Allegiance since its inception in 1892? Each progressive version had changes made in the language. The original 1892 version read as follows; “I pledge allegiance to my flag and the republic for which it stands: one nation indivisible with liberty and justice for all.” The first immediate change was adding the word ‘to’ “the republic…” followed in 1923 by adding ‘the’ to the word flag followed by ‘of the United States’. One year later ‘of America’ was added and in 1954 ‘under God’ was added.
The current Pledge of Allegiance now reads; “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.”
The story of how “under God” was added to the Pledge of Allegiance supports the recognition that United States is a Christian nation. Legal battles to remove these words have failed.
“Under God” was officially incorporated into the Pledge of Allegiance June 14, 1954 by a Joint Resolution of Congress amending § 7 of the Flag Code enacted in 1942. The man to first initiate the addition of “under God” to the Pledge was Louis A. Bowman (1872-1959). The National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution gave him an Award of Merit as the originator of this idea. He spent his adult life in the Chicago area and was Chaplain of the Illinois Society of the Sons of the American Revolution. At a meeting on February 12, 1948, Lincoln’s Birthday, he led the Society in swearing the Pledge with two words added, “under God.” He stated that the words came from Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. From that point there were other efforts made by groups and individuals to have the words “under God” added to the Pledge of Allegiance.
It was a Presbyterian minister who made the difference in 1954 by preaching a sermon about Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. The minister was George MacPherson Docherty, a native of Scotland who was called to succeed Peter Marshall as pastor of the New York Avenue Presbyterian Church near the White House. As Lincoln Sunday (February 7, 1954) approached, Rev. Docherty knew not only that President Dwight Eisenhower was to be in attendance, but that it was more than just an annual ritual for him. Eisenhower had been baptized a Presbyterian just a year earlier. Docherty’s sermon focused on the Gettysburg Address, drawing its title from the address, “A New Birth of Freedom.”
According to Docherty, what has made the United States both unique and strong was her sense of being the nation that Lincoln described: a nation “under God.” Docherty took the opportunity to tell a story of a conversation with his children about the Pledge of Allegiance. Docherty was troubled by the fact that it did not include any reference to God. Without such reference, Docherty insisted that the Pledge could apply to just about any nation. He felt that the pledge should reflect the American spirit and way of life as defined by Lincoln.
After the service concluded, Docherty had opportunity to converse with Eisenhower about the substance of the sermon. The President expressed his enthusiastic concurrence with Docherty’s view, and the very next day, Eisenhower had the wheels turning in Congress to incorporate Docherty’s suggestion into law. Senator Homer Ferguson, in his report to the Congress on March 10, 1954, said, “The introduction of this joint resolution was suggested to me by a sermon given recently by the Rev. George M. Docherty, of Washington, D.C., who is pastor of the church at which Lincoln worshipped.” This time Congress concurred with the Oakman-Ferguson resolution, and Eisenhower opted to sign the bill into law on Flag Day (June 14, 1954).
Sources: Today in History at Answers.com, Pledge of Allegiance December 28, 2009; United States Encyclopedia; Wikipedia