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Texas adds 'under God' to state Pledge

By Courtney Holliday
First Amendment Center Online intern

More than 50 years after the words “under God” were added to the national Pledge of Allegiance, Texas has made the phrase part of its oath.

Gov. Rick Perry signed a bill inserting the words into the Texas Pledge of Allegiance on June 15.

The revised pledge, which went into effect immediately, is now: “Honor the Texas flag; I pledge allegiance to thee, Texas, one state under God, one and indivisible.”

State Rep. Debbie Riddle, R-Tomball, authored House Bill 1034 because, she told the Houston Chronicle, it was “common sense.”

“I am simply mirroring our national pledge,” Riddle was quoted as saying in a May 4 article. The national pledge has included the words “under God” since 1954.

Since 2003, public school students in the state have recited the national and state pledges each day. Without a written request from a parent or guardian, students are to say the pledges as well as observe a minute of silence.

Although the measure passed both the House and the Senate overwhelmingly, some legislators expressed concerns about religious freedom. The Chronicle reported May 4 that state Rep. Lon Burnam, D-Fort Worth, said the bill could violate the religious rights of students in the state.

“We see today the real purpose of this bill. It’s not to create a parallel pledge. It is to promote one religious perspective,” Burnam was quoted as saying in another article May 5 in the San Antonio Express-News.

Similar reactions were found on editorial pages around the state.

After the House passed the bill, radio personality Mark Davis wrote in a May 30 Dallas Morning News opinion piece, “Once again, individual liberty takes it on the chin from public whim. The state pledge extends to all Texans, irrespective of faith, even to those who have none.” Davis is heard on Dallas station WBAP-AM’s News/Talk segment and also nationwide on ABC Radio Network.

Staff writer Bob Ray Sanders of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram referred to the Legislature’s actions as “forcing a dose of God down our throats” in a June 3 editorial. He added, “It’s been a pretty sorry pledge all along, and to be honest, adding God doesn’t help.”

The House bill analysis explained the measure’s intent with the text, “Since the time of the founding of the United States through modern times, the presence and influence of God has been intrinsically associated with the political and social culture of the United States.”

The analysis said that in passing the bill, the Legislature had acknowledged “our Judeo-Christian heritage by placing the words ‘under God’ in the state pledge.”

Courtney Holliday is a junior majoring in economics and public policy at Vanderbilt University in Nashville.

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