How Did Catholics Get ‘Under God’ into the Pledge of Allegiance?

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Washington D.C., Jul 5, 2021 / 07:00 am (CNA).

The Pledge of Allegiance didn’t always include the words “under God.”

When it was first composed, the pledge made no reference to God at all. Instead, in 1893, Americans recited “. . . one nation indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” The wording stayed that way for more than 60 years – until the Knights of Columbus intervened.

A Catholic fraternal organization founded in 1882, the Knights of Columbus today represent a worldwide financial and charitable organization. Because of their efforts, “under God” became a central part of the pledge as Americans know it today.

“The Knights of Columbus board of directors passed a resolution asking that the United States adopt ‘under God’ into the Pledge of Allegiance,” the head of the Knights, Supreme Knight Patrick Kelly, explained to EWTN News In Depth on July 2.

At the time, the Knights had already begun adding “under God” into the pledge at their meetings. After they passed the resolution, they sent it “to policymakers, to the House and to the Senate, and to the Eisenhower administration,” Kelly said.

Lawmakers embraced the change and agreed to amend the pledge. And, with the signature of President Dwight D. Eisenhower on Flag Day in 1954, “under God” was inserted.

The president expressed his gratitude to the Knights in a letter to the supreme knight at the time, Luke E. Hart. 

“These words will remind Americans that despite our great physical strength we must remain humble,” he urged. “They will help us to keep constantly in our minds and hearts the spiritual and moral principles which alone give dignity to man, and upon which our way of life is founded.”

The Knights support this message today.

“Our rights – our human rights – come from the Lord,” Kelly urged. “It comes from God and the state can’t take these rights away.”