One Nation, Under God
The Knights of Columbus is the world’s largest Catholic fraternal society, named after Christopher Columbus and comprised of lay Catholic men dedicated to providing charitable services, promoting Catholic education, and defending Catholicism in countries around the world.
The Knights were established by Venerable Fr. Michael J. McGivney in New Haven, Connecticut, in 1882. Today the organization has burgeoned to an estimated 1.8 million members active in 15,000 councils.
The short historical recap below is a testament to how the Knights of Columbus in particular, and therefore Catholicism in general, has played significant role in contributing to and shaping Christian faith in the United States of America.
1892: The Pledge of Allegiance was written by Francis Bellamy, a Baptist minister and Christian socialist, at a time when, according to him, “patriotism and national feeling was at a low ebb.” It was part of a movement to have American flags placed in every schoolhouse; a flag salute was intended for a Columbus Day celebration in schools across America.
1942: The United States Congress officially recognized the Pledge for the first time.
1945: The official title “The Pledge of Allegiance” is adopted.
1951: The Board of Directors of the Knights of Columbus adopted a resolution to amend the Pledge of Allegiance as recited in their own meetings with the addition of the words “Under God” after the words “One Nation.”
1952: The Supreme Council of the Knights of Columbus, at its annual meeting, adopted a resolution to urge this change to the Pledge be made on a national level. They sent letters of request to the President, Vice President, and Speaker of the House.
1953: The Knights of Columbus repeated this resolution at its next annual meeting, with the addition of sending letters to every member of both Houses of Congress requesting this change. Many favorable replied were received; as a result, seventeen resolutions were introduced to the House of Representatives to add “Under God” to the Pledge.
1954: One of these resolutions was adopted, passed by a Joint Resolution of Congress, and signed into law by President Eisenhower on Flag Day, June 14.
President Eisenhower stated,
“From this day forward, the 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… In this way we are reaffirming the transcendence of religious faith in America’s heritage and future; in this way we shall constantly strengthen those spiritual weapons which forever will be our country’s most powerful resource, in peace or in war.”
Included below is President Eisenhower’s thank you letter to the Knights of Columbus for their role in this national movement to include God in our nation’s Flag Pledge.
On October 6, 1954 the National Executive Committee of the American Legion officially recognized the Knights of Columbus as having initiated, sponsored and achieved this amendment to the Pledge of Allegiance.