Examine the Pledge of Allegiance word for word. What does it say about freedom of speech?

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Here is an analysis of the words and phrases in the Pledge of Allegiance.

I—it is a personal pledge, taken by one's own free will.

pledge—this means to make a promise or vow.

allegiance—Allegiance means faithfulness and loyalty; that is, I make a promise to not betray but to be...

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Here is an analysis of the words and phrases in the Pledge of Allegiance.

I—it is a personal pledge, taken by one's own free will.

pledge—this means to make a promise or vow.

allegiance—Allegiance means faithfulness and loyalty; that is, I make a promise to not betray but to be faithful to.

to the flag—This means the Stars and Stripes, the official flag of our country, which stands symbolically for everything the country is in its design and principles.

of the United States of America—This is the country founded in 1776 when the thirteen colonies declared their independence from Britain.

and to the Republic—the Republic is the form of government specified in the Constitution of the United States, the founding and governing document of our nation.

for which it stands—this clarifies that the flag is a symbol of the Republic.

one nation—this represents the several states that are joined together in one federal body governed by the President, Congress, and Supreme Court.

under God—most people in the country are people of faith who believe in prayer to a supreme being. Including this phrase acknowledges that human leadership is subject to a higher law of truth and morality and that Americans owe their ultimate allegiance and gratitude to the Almighty.

indivisible—the Union of the states is sacrosanct. Although the states have authority to govern in their jurisdictions, all the states are part of the Union and cannot function fully apart from it.

with liberty—the Founding Fathers specified "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" as the inalienable rights that all humans have from the Creator. This affirms our nation's foundational value of individual rights.

and justice—justice is the fair application of the law: crime is punished and rights are protected.

for all—every person has the inalienable rights that God gives and our government protects, and every person regardless of gender, age, creed, or ethnicity deserves equal rights and protection.

Although freedom of speech isn't specifically mentioned in the pledge, it is encompassed by the idea of "liberty and justice for all" as well as the reference to "the Republic." The Republic is defined by the US Constitution, the First Amendment of which guarantees free speech.

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It's significant that the Pledge of Allegiance, written in the nineteenth century, was adopted by the U.S. Congress as our nation's pledge in 1942. In December, 1941, the United States entered World War II after the attack on Pearl Harbor. The formal adoption of this pledge shortly after the country entered a major war suggests that the pledge was meant primarily as a loyalty oath.

At this time, the US government was very concerned about traitors in its midst, and, in fact, was interning US citizens of Japanese descent out of fear they might be more loyal to their native homeland, now our enemy, than to the US

The Pledge of Allegiance reads as follows:

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 emphasis in the pledge is not on freedom but on loyalty. The government wants to know its citizens are supporting it at this crucial time and wants that loyalty verbally expressed. Stating the country stands for liberty and justice for all, however, is a nod towards our important foundational democratic values of freedom, a distinction the government was making between itself and fascist dictatorships like Nazi Germany, although ironic and problematic because it was written around the time of Japanese internment as well.

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The Pledge of Allegiance doesn't explicitly mention freedom of speech, or any other freedom for that matter. The main reason for this is that it was originally written as a generic pledge, one that could be used by citizens of any country. It wasn't until later that the words of the Pledge were altered to make specific reference to "the flag of the United States of America."

Freedom of speech could be implied in the Pledge's explicit reference to "liberty" along with all other civil liberties that are such an essential part of America's political heritage. Most Americans have always been fully aware of the liberties they enjoy under the Bill of Rights, especially the First Amendment. There was no need, therefore, for the Pledge of Allegiance to set out in detail something that already existed elsewhere.

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Since the Pledge of Allegiance is meant as a very brief (31 words) general statement of support for the flag and the country as a whole, it says very little about any specific freedom like the freedom of speech.

The only mention of anything that is very closely connected to freedom of speech comes at the end of the Pledge.  This is in the words "with liberty and justice for all."  When we say that all people in the US have "liberty" we are surely referring (among other things) to the freedom of speech.  Most people would place this particular freedom very high on the list when asked what "liberty" means.

However, we should not infer from this that the Pledge is anti-free speech.  Instead, it is a very short statement that could not possibly list even the most important sorts of liberties we have and the ways in which justice is provided for us.

 

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