In Defense of the Original Pledge: An Open Letter to NBC

June 27, 2011

Chris McCloskey
Vice President, Communications
National Broadcasting Company, Inc.
30 Rockefeller Plaza
New York, NY 10112

Dear Mr. McCloskey,

I am writing regarding the controversy over your network airing a version of the Pledge of Allegiance that did not include the wording “under God.” Based on news accounts, it appears that certain religious conservatives are overreacting to your network’s actions, bombarding your network with telephone and email complaints even though your network has already apologized for the incident. I would like to convey the sentiments of millions of other Americans who, while less vocal about the issue, should be heard.

Your network did nothing wrong by airing the “God-free” version of the Pledge. In fact, a strong argument can be made that this version is the most patriotic. As you no doubt know, the “under God” wording was added to the Pledge only in 1954, at the height of the McCarthy era, after much lobbying by religious organizations. In many ways this was a dark period in American history, with good people being blacklisted and unfairly scrutinized for so-called “un-American” activities. It is not surprising that divisive religious language would have been added during this period (ironically, making a mockery of the “indivisible” language).

Since the religious language was not added until 1954, please be mindful that any soldiers who landed at Normandy would have said the God-free Pledge before taking to the beach in defense of democracy and freedom. So would any soldiers fighting in the Pacific, in Korea, or in the First World War. There is nothing unpatriotic about the beautiful wording “one nation indivisible.”

Please rest assured that many Secular Americans long for a return to the truly unifying Pledge that was aired by your network. We thank you for airing it, and we only regret that you apologized for doing so. We hope that you won’t be intimidated by the Religious Right bullies who are trying to give the appearance that the entire nation is offended by your actions. They are a small but vocal group, and they do not speak for America. This is a teachable moment, and we hope that your actions will initiate a serious discussion of this issue.

Very truly yours,

David Niose
American Humanist Association