N.C. Billboard Promoting Original Flag Pledge Marred By Vandals

A Charlotte, N.C., billboard that featured a passage from the Pledge of Allegiance as it was originally written was defaced by vandals in June.

The billboard, which stands beside Billy Graham Parkway, was sponsored by the North Carolina Secular Association. It contained the words “One Nation Indivisible” superimposed over an American flag.

The reference is to the Pledge of Allegiance as it was written by the Rev. Francis Bellamy in 1892, before the words “under God” were added by the U.S. Congress in 1954.

The billboard was one of six featuring the message throughout the state. Shortly after the Charlotte poster was put up, someone scaled the billboard and spray painted the words “Under God” on it, with an arrow pointing to the word “Nation.”

The vandalism was a harsh response to what was intended as a reminder of our nation’s diversity on matters of religion.

“This is a positive message of unity and inclusion for all Americans,” said Joseph McDaniel Stewart, vice president of FreeThoughtAction, in a June 22 press statement announcing the billboard in Winston-Salem. “It is designed to bring nontheists and theists together as patriots in a shared society.”

Stewart further explained that when the words “under God” were inserted into the Pledge, they cheapened the original message of a united people by advancing the notion that only those who worship God are included. But, he said, you cannot have an indivisible nation if you draw a line between believers and non-believers.

The state Secular Association bought space on the billboards for four weeks. On July 1, the Lamar billboard company dispatched a crew to replace the vandalized Charlotte billboard.

In other communities where the “One Nation Indivisible” signs were posted, critics responded with messages of their own.

The Rev. Ralph Sexton, pastor of Trinity Baptist Church in Asheville, erected digital billboards reading, “One nation, under God.” Sexton called the Association’s campaign “political correctness gone amok.”

Local Americans United chapters in North Carolina sometimes work with the Secular Association on church-state issues and contributed some funds to pay for displays on the billboards.

The vandalism was reported to the police, who are investigating.