Fact Check

Did Pepsi Omit 'Under God' from the Pledge of Allegiance?

A 17-year-old rumor about the Pledge of Allegiance that never had anything to do with Pepsi continues to dog the soft drink company.

Published Feb. 9, 2002

 (Andrey Armyagov / Shutterstock.com)
Image courtesy of Andrey Armyagov / Shutterstock.com
A new Pepsi soda can design omitted the words "under God" from the Pledge of Allegiance.

Pepsi has a new patriotic can coming out with pictures of the Empire State Bldg. and the Pledge of Allegiance on them. But Pepsi forgot two little words on the pledge, "Under God." Pepsi said they did not want to offend anyone.

If this is true then we do not want to offend anyone at the Pepsi corporate office. If we do not buy any Pepsi product then they will not receive any of our monies. Our money after all does have the words "Under God" on it. Please pass this word to everyone you know. Tell your Sunday School class tomorrow and tell your Pastors so that they can tell the whole congregation. Christians stand up and let your voices be heard. We want the words "under God" to be read by every person who buys a can.

To drink or not to drink?

Coca-Cola has a new patriotic can coming out with pictures of the Empire State Building and the Pledge of Allegiance on them. But Coke forgot two little words on the pledge, "Under God."

Coke said they did not want to offend anyone. If this is true then we do not want to offend anyone at the Coke corporate office. If we do not buy any Coke products then they will not receive any of our monies. Our money, after all, does have the words "Under God" on it.

If you agree with this policy, please pass this word to everyone you know. Coke doesn't have the right to rewrite the Pledge Of Allegiance!! If you do not agree, just erase or delete this message.

Although there once was at least some element of truth to the item quoted above about the omission of the words "under God" from the Pledge of Allegiance on a soda can, the information it contains is long outdated and never had anything to do with Pepsi or Coca-Cola. Neither of those companies is producing, or has it ever produced, redesigned cans bearing any portion of the Pledge of Allegiance or an image of the Empire State Building. This issue concerns a special patriotic can design briefly produced by Dr Pepper back in November 2001, a can which was marketed for a limited time and has been off store shelves for well over fourteen years (since February 2002).

The brouhaha began in mid-November 2001, when the Dr Pepper soft drink company, in response to the terrorist attacks on America a few months earlier, introduced a new can design featuring the Statue of Liberty with the words "ONE NATION ... INDIVISIBLE" from the Pledge of Allegiance displayed above it:

Dr Pepper did not print the entire Pledge of Allegiance on its cans while leaving out the words 'under God'; it invoked the Pledge of Allegiance by using a mere three words from the pledge. However, because the three words Dr Pepper chose to use were the ones surrounding the phrase 'under God' (which was not itself part of the original pledge as written by Francis Bellamy in 1892 but was added to the pledge by an act of Congress in 1954), the new patriotic can design prompted calls for boycotts from some religious groups and news media who maintained that Dr Pepper had "omitted 'under God'" from its version of the Pledge (because the words fall where Dr Pepper used ellipses) and publicized the issue by encouraging a campaign of sending e-mail and letters of complaint to the Dr Pepper company:

Dr Pepper has designed a new patriotic can featuring the Statue of Liberty and the Pledge of Allegiance, but they left out the phrase "under God" from the Pledge of Allegiance. When asked why, Dr Pepper replied: "We felt 'One Nation ... Indivisible' best represented the message we were trying to get across."

Dr Pepper has also used the excuse that wasn't enough room on the can for the words "Under God". The real reason is that the company didn't want to risk offending anyone who doesn't believe in God. Bad timing. After the events of 9/11, that's just not politically correct anymore!

I really do like Diet Dr Pepper, but I'm joining the ranks of those who won't be buying another one until new cans are printed that include the whole Pledge of Allegiance. I don't want them to simply yank the cans off the shelves, I want new cans printed with the words, "under God" on the can! And if enough people demand this, we'll get it. Walt Disney, AT&T, and K-Mart all chose to ignore boycott efforts; and now those companies are reaping the financial consequences of their decisions.

At one time, Dr Pepper addressed the issue on their web site, saying:

In recent days, several news media outlets in the country have reported on a special edition Dr Pepper can that was created to show support for the patriotic fervor that has been sweeping America since the tragic events of Sept. 11, 2001, and to show the world that we are a united nation of people who place a high value upon freedom.

Much of the information being circulated on this subject is incomplete or inaccurate. Here are the facts:

The can, released last November, features an image of the Statue of Liberty along with the words "One Nation ... Indivisible." The special packaging was designed to reflect our pride in this country's determination to stand together as one. The Statue of Liberty and Pledge of Allegiance were chosen as two of the greatest symbols of American freedom.

Due to space limitations on the can, only a few of the 31 words from the Pledge of Allegiance could be used. The available area for graphics limited the amount of verbiage on the can. Of the 31 words in the Pledge of Allegiance, only three were included. More than 90 percent were not included.

We at Dr Pepper/Seven Up strongly believe that the message on these cans is a resoundingly patriotic, bipartisan message that we are a united nation.

More than 41 million special edition cans were ordered by Dr Pepper bottlers in portions of a dozen states. Because the limited edition patriotic can is to be retired in February, you will soon see regular packaging graphics for Dr Pepper at your local retail stores.

Although 18 million Dr Pepper cans bearing the new design had been produced by February 2002, the company said it had received only "four complaints from Dubuque" and "200 other negative comments nationwide," and the issue seemed to have largely disappeared along with the cans by March 2002. However, when a United States Court of Appeals handed down a decision regarding the constitutionality of the words "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance in June 2002, it breathed new life into the Dr Pepper controversy even though the notorious cans had been off store shelves for months. Messages like the following then began circulating much more widely than the ones sent out during the initial wave of controversy:

Subject: Dr Pepper Boycott

We called on God on 9-11 so what's wrong with him now?

For those who have not heard, the bottlers/manufacturers of Dr Pepper and their other products, have started a "new" can campaign. They are putting patriotic scenes on them. One, is the Empire State Bldg. with the pledge of allegiance...but...they left off the words..."under God".

They felt it might "offend" some.

I don't know about you, but as a Christian, their position offends me! I am boycotting their products!

They said they didn't "have room" for those words, but yet they had room for "indivisible" on the can! Please pass this along to others and see if we can get a message out to Dr Pepper . . . if having "under God" on cans offends them, then they don't need our money with "in God we trust" on it!


Somehow along the way this message morphed into the versions quoted at the head of this page, which inaccurately attribute the "Pledge" can design to Pepsi. Dr Pepper and Pepsi are two completely different companies: Pepsi is a product of the Pepsico corporation; Dr Pepper is a product of Dr Pepper Snapple Group (which was spun off from Cadbury Schweppes in 2008). Although Dr Pepper has been produced and distributed by Pepsi bottlers in some parts of the U.S., the Dr Pepper company has never been owned by PepsiCo, as the Washington Times erroneously reported.

PepsiCo eventually had to issue their own rumor alert regarding this issue:


You've received an erroneous email about a "patriotic can" that Pepsi allegedly produced with an edited version of America's Pledge of Allegiance. The truth is, Pepsi never produced such a can. In fact, this is a hoax that has been circulating on the Internet for more than six years. A patriotic package used in 2001 by Dr Pepper (which is not a part of PepsiCo) was inappropriately linked to Pepsi. Thanks for giving us the chance to clarify the situation and please feel free to share this message with anyone else who may have received the erroneous email.

In February 2003 we began seeing the call to boycott the soda bottler who had omitted "Under God" from its patriotic cans aimed at Coca-Cola. It was the same wording as the summons to arms against Pepsi that had circulated a year earlier but with "Coke" replacing "Pepsi" in the text. It too was false, as Coca-Cola had had no more to do with the short-lived Dr Pepper cans than had Pepsi.

Writing to any company now and threatening to boycott them until they "put 'under God' back on their cans" is pointless. The patriotic "Pledge" can was produced only between November 2001 and February 2002, it was sold only in parts of twelve states, it has long since been retired, and it has not been available in stores since that one time.

An interesting contrast was provided by Time magazine's 24 September 2001 cover, which used the same words in its headline but prompted very few complaints:


Day, Julia.   "Pepsi Distances Itself from Dr Pepper Row."     The Guardian.   18 September 2002.

Grunwald, Michael.   "Pledge Purist Seeks to Give Pause a Rest."     The Boston Globe.   9 March 1998   (p. A3).

Heard, Ken.   "Dr Pepper Under Fire; Girl Says It Left Out God."     Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.   9 February 2002.

Rodengen, Jeffrey L.   The Legend of Dr Pepper/Seven-Up.     Ft. Lauderdale: Write Stuff Syndicate, 1995.   ISBN 0-945903-49-9.

Witham, Larry.   "Pepsi Urban Legend Keeps Fizzing on E-mail."     The Washington Times.   22 February 2003.

Associated Press.   "Students Upset Dr Pepper Edits God Out of Pledge."     1 February 2002.

The Columbus Dispatch.   "Under God' Reference Added to Pledge in '54."     1 June 2000   (p. A8).

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.   "The Pledge."     17 October 2001   (p. A14).

David Mikkelson founded the site now known as snopes.com back in 1994.