How the words ‘under God’ came to be added to the Pledge of Allegiance


he Pledge of Allegiance to the flag of the United States originated on Columbus Day 1893. It contained no reference to God. On April 22, 1951, in a gathering in New York City, the Board of Directors of the Knights of Columbus adopted a resolution to amend the Pledge of Allegiance as recited at the opening of each of the 800 Fourth Degree Assemblies of the Knights by the addition of the words “under God” after the words “one nation.” This resolution was immediately adopted and implemented.

At their annual state meetings the following year, Knights councils in Florida, South Dakota, New York and Michigan adopted resolutions recommending that the Pledge of Allegiance be amended and that Congress be petitioned on the matter.

Later in 1952, the Supreme Council of the Knights of Columbus adopted a resolution urging that the change be made general and copies of this statement were sent to the president, vice president and speaker of the House of Representatives. The National Fraternal Congress, meeting in Boston on Sept. 24, 1953, adopted a similar resolution upon the recommendation of its president, Supreme Knight Luke E. Hart. Several state fraternal congresses acted on the matter immediately thereafter.

At its annual meeting the following year, on Aug. 20, 1953, the Supreme Council of the Knights of Columbus repeated the resolution regarding the pledge amendment, and copies were sent to each member of both Houses of Congress. From this action, 17 resolutions were introduced in the House of Representatives to amend the Pledge of Allegiance. The resolution introduced by Congressman Louis C. Rabaut of Michigan was adopted by both Houses of Congress, and it was signed by President Dwight D. Eisenhower on Flag Day, June 14, 1954.

In a message to Supreme Knight Hart at the Supreme Council’s meeting in Louisville, Ky., on Aug. 17, 1954, President Eisenhower, in recognition of the initiative of the Knights of Columbus in originating and sponsoring the amendment to the pledge, said:

“We are particularly thankful to you for your part in the movement to have the words ‘Under God’ added to our Pledge of Allegiance. These words will remind Americans that despite our great physical strength we must remain humble. 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 your way of life is founded. For the contribution which your organization made to this cause, we must be genuinely grateful.”

Gene T. Janikowski is public relations chairman of the Knights of Columbus S.C. State Council.