Jonathan Lange: “One Nation Under God” Is Cornerstone Of America’s Republic

Columnist Jonathan Lange writes, "On this day 70 years ago, President Eisenhower signed a bill which added the words, 'under God,' to the Pledge of Allegiance. Both chambers agreed unanimously that 'under God' should be added."

Jonathan Lange

June 14, 20244 min read

Jonathan lange
(Cowboy State Daily Staff)

On this day 70 years ago, President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed HJ 243 which added the words, “under God,” to the Pledge of Allegiance. The Pledge had been in American classrooms since 1892.

Now, said Eisenhower, “millions of our school children will daily proclaim in every city and town, every village and rural school house, the dedication of our nation and our people to the Almighty.”

It was Flag Day 1954. Ever since that time, Americans have spoken in concert, “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 addition of “under God” was anything but controversial. Democratic Rep. Barratt O’Hara of Illinois reported, “some 2,000 or perhaps 3,000 of my constituents wrote me in support of this joint resolution.”

He went on to say, “It was by far the largest mail that I have received on any subject during the months of the 83rd Congress. It reflected a spiritual awakening in our country, the universality and the depth of which may never have been surpassed.”

Individual Americans were joined by town councils, county commissions, civic, fraternal and religious organizations. Collectively, they prompted 16 representatives and one senator to sponsor various resolutions adding “under God” to the Pledge.

Congressmen of all parties debated whether “under God” should be inserted after “Nation” or after “indivisible.” They debated the placement of a comma. They strenuously debated whether to adopt the House resolution or its identical twin in the Senate.

But nobody opposed the central point. Both chambers agreed unanimously that “under God” should be added.

Eisenhower summarized the reason: “Over the globe, mankind has been cruelly torn by violence and brutality and, by the millions, deadened in mind and soul by a materialistic philosophy of life. Man everywhere is appalled by the prospect of atomic war.”

He saw “materialistic philosophy” as directly linked to the threat of nuclear holocaust.

The president’s rationale echoed legislators from both House and Senate. The Congressional Record of that debate hearkens back to a time when political debate was more substantive, less caustic, rooted in reality, and unanimously American.

Ohio Republican, Oliver Bolton, said that citizens, “see arrayed against this Nation, and the way of life which it represents, a dictatorial policy that recognizes no God and no divinity in man. Under communism, men are mere cogs in a machine, without rights, without souls, without future, without hope. Our Nation has long recognized that if we are to survive this challenge of materialism, of selfishness, of immorality, it will only be with the help of a power greater than our own.”

Louisiana Democrat, Overton Brooks, added that the resolution, “goes to the very fundamentals of life and creation. It recognizes that all things which we have in the way of life, liberty, constitutional government, and rights of man are held by us under the divine benediction of the Almighty.”

Michigan Republican, Charles Oakman, addressed the establishment clause: “Mr. Speaker, the pledge of allegiance is not a confession of faith.” It is a philosophical foundation.

Citing a host of founding documents together with Presidents Eisenhower and Lincoln, he explained: “The official conjunction of the laws of God with the constitutions and laws of the land is the basic and controlling ingredient of Americanism,” and, “rests on the recognition of theological and philosophical truth."

New York Republican, Kenneth Keating, reminded the House: “When the forces of anti-God and anti-religion so persistently spread their dangerous and insidious propaganda, it is wholesome for us to have constantly brought to our minds” that the nation, as well as the individual stands under the authority of the Almighty God. ”History,” he reminded us, “is replete with instances where nations have perished for failure to recognize these simple truths.”

The Congressional Record of June 7 and 8, 1954 is an example of how bi-partisan debate can and should be conducted. It stands in stark contrast to the recent partisan attacks on Justice Samuel Alito for raising “An Appeal to Heaven.”

Recognition of an authority that transcends government fiat does not violate America’s founding principles. It is the most foundational principle of all. As William Penn warned, “Those people who are not governed by God will be ruled by tyrants.”

Read for yourself the Congressional Record of June 7, 1954 (pp. 7757-7766). It is an uplifting and inspiring way to honor “the flag of the United States of America and the Republic for which it stands.”

Jonathan Lange is a Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod pastor in Evanston and Kemmerer and serves the Wyoming Pastors Network. Follow his blog at Email:

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Jonathan Lange