People are quick to believe nonsense. Charles Spurgeon said, “A lie will go round the world while truth is pulling its boots on.”

That saying was not original with him, however. In fact, it has variously been attributed to Jonathan Swift and Mark Twain, among others. In various forms it’s been rolling around for the last three hundred years or so and it’s hard to say who actually came up with it.

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The difficulty of pinning the quote down to a specific person illustrates one of the more minor problems of this Facebook age: attributing words to people that never spoke them. Every day we’re exposed to Facebook postings claiming, usually for political or religious reasons, that so-and-so famous person profoundly mouthed syllables that mesh perfectly with the preferred viewpoint of the individual sharing the post.


Here’s a useful rule of thumb: if you find a quote attributed to Winston Churchill, Mark Twain, George Washington (or any other Founding Father) that perfectly encapsulates your beliefs, you might want to check it out before you use it. Same thing with any quotes attributed to the people you dislike, whether George Soros, the Koch brothers, George Bush (one or two), Ronald Reagan, Barack Obama, Al Gore or Bill or Hillary Clinton that prove your opprobrium is obviously appropriate and see, they really are evil or an idiot or both. Especially be careful now, during the upcoming season of electioneering: both sides will be posting quotes that sound horrible and stupid and will gleefully attribute them to the politician or political party that they hate. Nearly all of these quotations will be made up or pulled from their proper context. So: be as skeptical of quotes that make you feel happy or justified as you would of those that make you furious and that you know simply can’t be right.

And when it comes to checking out the quotes: use multiple sources that don’t source only from one another and only come from one political or religious point of view. Instead, look in places that are from political or religious points of view that you don’t like. If it is only members of one party or another, or one religious position or another (especially if it’s only from the point of view that you hold to), then you should probably assume it is bogus.

Is there something you fear is going to happen? When you see your fear confirmed by a pretty picture and associated words on Facebook, then you should probably be suspicious, rather than imagining your fear has been confirmed. For instance, I regularly see a picture of children giving the pledge of allegiance with the words under it stating: “We used to do this when we were growing up, but now we don’t for fear of offending people.”

Newsflash: this is nonsense on stilts. It is untrue. It is a lie.

The State of California requires, by law, that children say the pledge of allegiance in school every day. My wife teaches third grade in public school and she does the pledge with her children every day, the same as she always has for the last twenty-five years.

In 2008, all but 8 states had the same legal requirements mandating that children say the pledge in schools. Today, there are 4 states that don’t have the same requirements. So in fact, the OPPPOSITE of what the common Facebook posting fears is instead true.

And, I should add, as it has been for decades, children—such as Jehovah’s Witnesses—can always opt out of saying the pledge and just sit or stand quietly. But that’s nothing new, either.

I might also point out that the pledge of allegiance is hardly an ancient ritual; the pledge itself had originally been composed by Francis Bellamy in 1892 and was not formally adopted by Congress as the pledge until 1942. The phrase “under God” was not added to the pledge of allegiance until 1954 when it was incorporated into the Pledge of Allegiance on June 14, 1954, by a Joint Resolution of Congress.

“In God we trust” was not adopted as the official motto of the United States until 1956 when it became an alternative or replacement to the unofficial motto of E pluribus unum, which had been adopted when the Great Seal of the United States was created in 1782.

The use of "In God we trust" has not been common on our currency until relatively recently. The motto appeared first on the two cent piece minted from 1864-1872, and it was used on the nickels from 1866-1883. Then it went away. It didn’t reappear on nickels until 1938.

In 1908, Congress made it mandatory that the phrase be printed on all coins upon which it had previously appeared. This decision was motivated by a public outcry following the release of a $20 coin in 1907 which did not bear the motto. The motto has been in continuous use on the one-cent coin only since 1909, and on dimes since 1916. It also has appeared on all gold coins and silver dollar coins, half-dollar coins, and quarters struck since July 1, 1908. So if it were suddenly to disappear, it wouldn’t be the first time. But no president could make the words go away now.

If you see any Facebook postings suggesting the President is dumping the motto, it is nonsense. It would take an act of Congress to get the motto off our coins now. And besides, you’d hear about it in the news, first—not from a Facebook posting by one of your friends.

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