Atheist Michael Newdow has been pestering the courts to rule that the phrase “under God,” found in the Pledge of Allegiance, and “In God We Trust,” imprinted and stamped on our currency, are unconstitutional. In 2010, even the usually liberal San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected Newdow’s legal challenges that the references to God are unconstitutional and infringe on his religious beliefs. On June 13, 2011, the Supreme Court refused to review Newdow’s challenge to the lower court’s ruling (also see here).
These court decisions don’t tell the whole story. There’s something sinister going on in our nation. Three times in one month in 2010, President Obama left out a very important qualification about the source of our rights when he cited a portion of the Declaration of Independence. He said that “each of us are [sic] endowed with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” The complete text of the Declaration includes the phrase “endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights.” The use of “Creator” specifies to everyone everywhere that rights are not granted by the will of the majority or the legislative action of the government but are a gift – an endowment – from God.
On April 12, 2011, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid omitted the words “under God” from the Pledge on the floor of the U.S. Senate after telling the audience present how he is “moved to hear the Pledge of Allegiance when it marks the beginning of a new legislative day in the United States Senate.”
The latest redaction to things religious took place at the U.S. Open golf championship over the weekend during a taped patriot segment that included school children reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, or at least some of it. It’s not that the children did not say “under God.” They did. Somebody at NBC edited out the phrase. Twice! (see video here). NBC later offered something of an apology:
In a statement during the broadcast, NBC commentator Dan Hicks said, “We began our coverage of this final round just about three hours ago and when we did it was our intent to begin the coverage of this U.S. Open Championship with a feature that captured the patriotism of our national championship being held in our nation’s capital for the third time. Regrettably, a portion of the Pledge of Allegiance that was in that feature was edited out. It was not done to upset anyone and we’d like to apologize to those of you who were offended by it.”
“Edited out” seems like premeditation by someone. Did you notice that Mr. Hicks does not say what was “edited out”? Is it possible (sure it is) that somebody at NBC didn’t like the idea that God is mentioned in the Pledge of Allegiance. I suspect that NBC knows who it is.
So while the courts have ruled that “In God We Trust” and “under God” are not unconstitutional, even when said in a governmental context, a number of prominent Americans and secularists placed in influential positions have taken it upon themselves to excise references to God. I read somewhere that students can add their own wording during pledge time. A Cultural shift is more significant than a legal shift. The courts might rule one way or another, but it’s what the people know and act on that matters. Since young people today get their information by way of social media, it’s possible that an ideological change can be made without anybody actually being able to identify a single source. This is both a problem and an opportunity. The media and educational gatekeepers are gone. It’s time that Christians take advantage of what’s available to reprogram the educational machine.
But back to the Pledge of Allegiance for a moment. To be honest, I am not a big fan of pledging allegiance to any political entity, including the United States of America, especially when so many things have changed in America since its founding. The support of abortion on demand, the redefinition of the family and the support of homosexual marriages, opening the military up to people who engage in a particular sexual practice, the confiscatory nature of our taxing and spending system, and perpetual wars do not endear me to what the flag now represents. Adding “one nation under God” does not cancel these moral outrages. In fact, it would not surprise me that liberals don’t care that much about the Pledge including “under God” because its addition appeases many Americans. The courts have ruled that “In God We Trust” can stay on our money, and “under God” is still in our Pledge. God is in heaven, and everything is right with America. Wrong. The people of Israel cried out, “This is the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord” (Jer. 7:4) thinking that all was right with their nation because the temple was still standing. In the same verse, God described such a belief as “deceptive words.” There is more to the health of a nation than words and institutions.
I don’t like the fact that many churches post an American flag in a prominent place in the sanctuary, often across from what is described as the “Christian flag.” As a Christian, I believe in a jurisdictional separation between church and state. The church is a separate government that at times should stand against the civil sphere when it operates outside its delegated boundaries. This does not mean that there should be a separation of God and State. No such separation can be found in the Bible, in our nation’s earliest founding documents, and our official founding documents, the Declaration of Independence (e.g., “endowed by their Creator,” “Supreme Judge of the world,” “divine providence”) and the Constitution (“Done in the year of our Lord”).
Then there’s the history of the Pledge to consider. The earliest version was written in August 1892 by Francis Bellamy, a newspaperman, who wrote for Youth’s Companion magazine. The original Pledge was first recited in public at a Columbus Day program on October 12, 1892. To mark the anniversary, Chicago held the World Columbian Exposition to celebrate the 400th anniversary of Columbus’s discovery of America.
Francis Bellamy was a Baptist minister. He was the first-cousin of Edward Bellamy, author of the socialist utopian novels Looking Backward (1888) and Equality (1897). John W. Baer, the author of The Pledge of Allegiance: A Centennial History, 1892–1992, writes that “it never would have occurred to Francis Bellamy to put ‘under God’ in the Pledge, at least according to what he had to say at the time.” While Bellamy preached sermons on topics such as “Jesus the Socialist” and “The Socialism of the Primitive Church,” over which he lost his pulpit at Bethany Baptist Church in Boston, he believed that religion belonged only in the family and church.
Bellamy believed that universal public education was the great equalizer and remedy for national reformation. “Our fathers in their wisdom knew that the foundations of liberty, fraternity, and equality must be universal education,” Bellamy wrote in a speech. Consider this frightening Bellamy manifesto:
The free school, therefore, was conceived as the cornerstone of the Republic. Washington and Jefferson recognized that the education of citizens is not the prerogative of church or of other private interest; that while religious training belongs to the church, and while technical and higher culture may be given by private institutions—the training of citizens in the common knowledge and the common duties of citizenship belongs irrevocably to the State.
Of course, at the time, public schools were generally Protestant, a carry over from colonial Puritanism. With the rising tide of immigration, Roman Catholics became a growing segment of the population. If they sent their children to public schools, they would get Protestant indoctrination. I can remember the first time I attended public school after five years of Catholic elementary schooling. Bible reading and prayer were still allowed when I entered the 6th grade in 1961. The Lord’s Prayer was said every morning. But to this Catholic boy, the “Our Father” ended in a different way. This Protestant line had been added: “For Thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.”
In order to counter the Protestantism in the public schools, Catholics built their own parish schools guided by Catholic doctrine. Catholic kids who did not go to Catholic school had to go to catechism class on Saturday morning. To Bellamy, this was not what America was all about. As we’re beginning to see, the Catholics understood the problem, but as the public schools got more secular, that is, less Protestant, Catholics felt it was safe to send their children to what they believed were religiously neutral schools. Boy, were they wrong!
Here are a couple of other things to keep in mind. The Pledge wasn’t formally adopted by Congress as the national pledge until 1942. It has been modified four times since its composition, with the most recent change happening in 1954 when the words “under God” were added.
The biggest problem our nation faces is not whether “under God” is in the Pledge and said in government schools, but the fact that Christians continue to send their children to government schools where God is persona non grata. Christian groups are wrangling over “under God” in the Pledge when God has been officially expunged from government schools for more than 45 years. What God is being referenced when students say “under God”? Take your pick, since no school can specify a particular God. Courts have ruled that there can’t be any mention of God in graduation addresses. For example, Kyle Gearwar, valedictorian at Fair Haven Union High School in Vermont, prepared a commencement speech but the school’s lawyer would not allow him to mention that section where he praised the Lord for how God had changed his life. The use of “in Jesus’ name” has been outlawed at city council meetings.
Maybe Christians will get the message that since God is not wanted in government schools, then neither are they. Only then will we be able to create a competing education system that will rival and surpass the near monopoly of government education. It’s my dream that one day public schools will be sold to Christians for pennies on the dollar. I hope I live long enough to see it happen.