Pledge of Allegiance expert not surprised by state court ruling

By Brian White The Associated Press
Thursday June 27, 2002

BALTIMORE — A court ruling the Pledge of Allegiance is unconstitutional was no surprise to an expert on the patriotic promise. 

John Baer, author of “The Pledge of Allegiance: A Centennial History 1892-1992,” said the pledge has been modified over the years. 

“About every 40 years, the wording of the pledge is changed,” the Annapolis man said Wednesday. “It’s about time for another change to take place in the pledge. It’s a living document.” 

Baer said the current pledge and the practice of reciting it with hand over heart is nothing like the original author intended. 

Until 1942, for example, a straight arm salute resembling the Nazi salute was used, Baer said. 

Baer, 71, credits the Rev. Francis Bellamy, a Baptist minister, with authorship of the original pledge in 1892. Bellamy’s pledge omitted any country’s name or religious reference. 

His original pledge read: 

“I pledge allegiance to my Flag and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” 

Baer, a former economics professor, said Bellamy intended his words to be a peace pledge. 

“He saw an international side to this thing,” Baer said. 

Baer wrote that the words “my flag” were changed to “the flag of the United States of America” in 1924 at the National Flag Conference under the leadership of the American Legion and the Daughters of the American Revolution. 

Bellamy, who died in 1931, disliked the change, Baer wrote, but his protest was ignored. 

In 1954, Congress added the words “under God” to the pledge after a campaign by the Knights of Columbus. 

Bellamy’s granddaughter said Bellamy also would have resented that change — especially after he was forced to leave his church in 1891 because of his socialist sermons, Baer wrote. 

The “under God” phrase is what the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found unconstitutional on Wednesday, saying it violates separation of church and state.