What I Expect My Child To Learn From Not Saying the Pledge of Allegiance

I've often heard people describe those unwilling to say the Pledge of Allegiance as un-American. Of these people I ask: what is your definition of being an American? Was George Washington un-American because he never said the Pledge of Allegiance? What do you mean when you pledge your allegiance to the flag?

When I answer these questions for myself, I know that my child will learn important lessons by not reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. If what you've just read bothers you, please be patient with me, you might find it worth your time to read this.

u201CI Pledge Allegiance to the Flag of the United States of Americau201D

George Washington never said the Pledge of Allegiance because Francis Bellamy (1855–1931) wrote the Pledge of Allegiance in 1892 for the 400-year anniversary celebration of Columbus' day at the Chicago World's Fair. Bellamy was the chairman of a committee of state superintendents of education in the National Education Association (NEA) at the time. The pledge was seen as a tool to mold students — a u201CMighty engine for inculcation of Patriotism.u201D [1]

What is a pledge or promise of allegiance? Is it necessary? After the War Between the States, rebellious southerners were required to cite an u201Coath of allegiance.u201D The word allegiance used in the Pledge has its roots in this loyalty oath. [2]

Have you ever looked up the definition of allegiance in a dictionary? My dictionary shows the first definition of allegiance, which is the earliest ascertainable meaning, as u201Cthe obligation of a feudal vassal to his liege lord, the fidelity of a subject owed to his sovereign or government.u201D [3] This refers to the feudal arrangement between a vassal and his lord.

The last definition of allegiance is u201Cloyalty and devotion in general,u201D and u201Cexpress allegianceu201D is defined as u201Cthat obligation which proceeds from an express promise or oath of fidelity.u201D [4] Maybe these last definitions are what you have in mind when you pledge allegiance to the flag.

In that case, note that the dictionary defines fidelity as u201Cfaithfulness; careful and exact observance of duty, or performance of obligation or vows.u201D The definition also lists loyalty as in the u201Cfidelity of a servant to his master.u201D [5]

None of these definitions fits the idea of America when it was founded. Benjamin Franklin stated it this way at the Constitutional Convention: u201CIn free governments, the rulers are the servants and the people their superiors and sovereigns.u201D [6]

Perhaps you can try to convince yourself that you are merely saying the pledge to show loyalty, that you are devoted to the flag and the republic. At the end of this essay is the Oath for Naturalized Citizens from a government website. Read it and notice that newly naturalized citizens swear allegiance to the Constitution and the laws of the United States. Remember the definitions for allegiance above and note that each naturalized citizen is required to renounce u201Call allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen.u201D This should convince you that the federal government understands allegiance as that something which subjects give to a government.

So we can see that the first phrase of the pledge: u201CI pledge allegiance to the flagu201D states that the individual pledges fealty to something superior to the individual. Pledging allegiance is pledging the fidelity of a subject owed to his sovereign or government. That idea is not found in the Declaration of Independence, or the Constitution.

u201CAnd to the Republic for Which It Standsu201D

What is the source of our liberty? If one truly believes in the sovereignty of God, and that individuals are sovereign in our nation, then only God is above human beings, not the state. If one believes in the supremacy of the individual, the state still cannot be sovereign. Benjamin Franklin captured both viewpoints succinctly this way: u201CFreedom is not a gift bestowed upon us by other men, but a right that belongs to us by the laws of God and nature.u201D [7]

Our Declaration of Independence states that governments derive their u201Cjust Powers from the Consent of the Governed.u201D And that liberty is an unalienable right of all men. The Republic owes allegiance to its citizens and citizens owe no allegiance to the Republic. Members of the government take oaths to defend the Constitution — and rightly so. They have a duty to defend it. The Constitution is intended to bind the government, not citizens.

For a sovereign citizen to pledge allegiance to the Republic is exactly backwards. [8] The Republic exists for us as individuals. We do not pledge to it; pledges are for subservient subjects of kings or National Socialist governments — not American citizens.

u201COne Nation, Under God, Indivisibleu201D

The stars on the flag originally represented sovereign states. When the united [9] States of America first seceded from England and King George III with the Declaration of Independence, the idea of free and independent, and therefore sovereign states, was the idea for America. When we celebrate the Fourth of July, we are commemorating the secession of the 13 colonies from England as free and independent states.

Read the Declaration of Independence. Its purpose was to explain to the world why the colonies were seceding, why the u201CFree and Independent States . . . are absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political Connection between them and the State of Great Britain is and ought to be totally dissolved . . .u201D [10]

We aren't celebrating the birth of the United States with the Fourth of July — but maybe you are.

Perhaps if American citizens spent more time learning that the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence are what define America, and not a flag, they would even see how our freedoms are continually absorbed by the central government with each passing crisis. To cite just a few examples of the process: the War between the States ended states rights and brought the first income tax. The Second World War brought us income tax withholding. The latest crisis has caused a massive expansion in the central government including u201Crandomu201D searches of pregnant women before they board airplanes u201Cto protect us.u201D

If Americans studied these documents they might come to the conclusion that the pledge is antithetical to the spirit of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. The spirit of those documents is not one of subservient vassals of the state, but of sovereign citizens. The nation is only indivisible to our detriment and for the strengthening of the central state. The War Between the States was a bloody suppression of freedom. Slaves were ultimately freed, but all of us are now subservient to the Federal government. The new King George resides in Washington, D.C.

u201CWith Liberty and Justice for Allu201D

Francis Bellamy, who wrote the Pledge, was the cousin of Edward Bellamy, author of Looking Backward: 2000–1887, a utopian novel of a national socialist future America. [11] Both Edward and Francis Bellamy were national socialists from the collectivist movement of the late 19th century. So this pledge, which some think is a criterion for being an American, was written for the public school system by a socialist.

What is it about socialism that's so bad? After all, socialism simply means that all must work for the state, and that the state is sovereign. This isn't so different from what the writer of the Pledge of Allegiance wants us to think — trying to mold students into national socialist patriots, right?

One clue might be this: the pledge was originally cited while giving a stiff uplifted right hand salute — much like the salute of a later proponent of the national socialism also advocated by the Bellamys — Adolph Hitler. This practice of saluting while pledging allegiance was discontinued after the Second World War. [12] Americans were probably unsettled by the parallels of watching their children Pledge Allegiance to the Flag and recent images of Hitler Youth doing something similar. In reality, the pledge has the same goals of mass indoctrination by unthinking, repetitious, recitation that the Nazi salute accomplished.

Conclusion

What do I expect my child to learn by not saying the Pledge of Allegiance?

Initially it will be what my child doesn't learn that will be important. The first thing my child will learn not to do is thoughtlessly repeat what others say. I hope that lesson translates into my child having the courage and independence of mind to not parrot the dictates of the central state and the mob.

I know it will be difficult for my child to do this, but standing quietly and respectfully while others chant will give my child the time to consider the next lesson: that the vast majority of people willingly give up their freedom without even knowing it. I expect my child to learn that citizens are not subservient to the central state, despite the beliefs of the vast majority of people that everyone's freedom depends upon that state.

The most basic lesson in all of these things that I expect my child to learn is the importance of words and the necessity of asking questions and thinking to see the ideas behind the words.

As in Orwell's Animal Farm, where the animals recite words by rote, and reduce all speech to slogans chanted endlessly to prevent opposition speakers from being heard and also to prevent any rational thought by those doing the chanting, mindless recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance prevents understanding of America. [13]

Words are important — they mean something — I hope my child will have the courage and discernment to decide whether what is said is true, independent of how many say it. Because I love my child, I want my child to learn to recognize the forces of collectivism that drain the individuality out of life and sap our freedoms, and to be independent despite them. Who would want any less for their child?

When my child is old enough to learn what made America unique in history, it will be time to study the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution – u201Cdocuments that come closer than any others in the history of government to articulating the purpose of, and providing the blueprints for, a free society.u201D [14]

My child will learn what Americans should know: recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance doesn't support American ideals. Instead, it gives away our liberty, minimizing that for which the founding fathers fought. When my child becomes an adult, I would proudly support a pledge made, as by the founding fathers when they pledged u201Cto each other Our Lives, Our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.u201D [15] This was a pledge made between sovereign individuals to fight for liberty. The Pledge of Allegiance is none of these things.

Many people have died for what they thought made this country free. It isn't easy to disagree about such an emotional idea. I hope my child will have the courage to do so.

Oath for Naturalized Citizens

"I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen; that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform noncombatant service in the Armed Forces of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform work of national importance under civilian direction when required by the law; and that I take this obligation freely without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; so help me God."

In some cases, INS allows the oath to be taken without the clauses:

" . . . that I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by law; that I will perform noncombatant service in the Armed Forces of the United States when required by law . . ." [16]

Notes

[1] Statement by George Balch, a New York City kindergarten teacher in the 19th century. Cecilia O’Leary and Tony Platt, u201CPledging Allegiance Does Not a Patriot Make,u201D Sunday Los Angeles Times, 25 November 2001.

[2] Dr. John W. Baer, The Pledge of Allegiance: A Short History (1992).

[3] Webster's Seventh New Collegiate Dictionary (Springfield: Merriam-Webster, 1963) 23.

[4] Webster's New Twentieth Century Dictionary of the English Language, 2nd ed. (N.Y.: Simon and Schuster, 1983) 47.

[5] Webster's New Twentieth Century Dictionary of the English Language, 2nd ed. (N.Y.: Simon and Schuster, 1983) 681.

[6] James Madison, u201CThursday July 26, 1787, In Convention of the Whole,u201D Madison's Notes.

[7] Quotation is from Franklin's Maxims and Morals. Gary M. Galles, u201CBen Franklin on Libertyu201D (Ludwig von Mises Institute, February 3, 2003).

[8] Paul Hein, u201CMuch Ado About Nothing,u201D (LewRockwell.com, 5 July 2002). This essay has so much that I agree with, that there are many ideas in it that are the same or similar to what I've written.

[9] I use the lower case u for united here because in the Declaration of Independence they used a lower case letter. United was an adjective describing sovereign States, and not the name of the centralized government we know as the United States.

[10] Hancock et al, u201CThe Declaration of Independence,u201D The Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States of America (1776; Washington, D.C.: Cato Institute, 1998) 14.

[11] Edward Bellamy, Looking Backward 2000–1887 (1888; N.Y.: New American Library, 1960).

[12] Dr. John W. Baer, The Pledge of Allegiance A Centennial History, 1892–1992.

[13] George Orwell, Animal Farm (1946; N.Y.: New American Library).

[14] Dr. Baer,The Pledge of Allegiance A Short History.

[15] u201CThe Declaration of Independence,u201D 14.

[16] US Government Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services Website.

March 21, 2003