The American Vision: A Biblical Worldview Ministry

Michael Newdow gets Neutered

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Atheist Michael Newdow has been pestering the courts to rule that the phrases “under God” found in the Pledge of Allegiance and “In God We Trust,” our nation’s national motto, are unconstitutional. The usually liberal Federal Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals surprisingly ruled against Newdow. The Court wrote:

Not every mention of God or religion by our government or at the government’s direction is a violation of the Establishment Clause. See Lynch v. Donnelly, 465 U.S. 668, 673 (1984) (“Nor does the Constitution require complete separation of church and state; it affirmatively mandates accommodation, not merely tolerance, of all religions, and forbids hostility toward any.”). The Supreme Court has upheld several government actions that contained a religious element against Establishment Clause claims: a display of the Ten Commandments on the Texas State Capitol grounds; the display of a Chanukah menorah outside a City-County Building; the display of a Nativity scene in a public Christmas display; a state legislature’s practice of opening each day with a prayer led by a chaplain paid with state funds; a state’s property tax exemption for religious organizations; and a township’s program for reimbursing parents for the cost of transporting their children to parochial schools. Each of these cases involved religion. But taken in context, none of the government actions violated the Establishment Clause.

The decision is a reversal of a 2002 ruling by the same court. A change in judges made the difference. There is a lesson here. No one lives forever. Given time, judges retire and die off. If Christians are forward thinking and view all of life (including law) as kingdom activity, we could eventually replace the present legal nincompoops who sit on the courts. Newdow wants the Supreme Court to hear the case. So expect an appeal.

To be consistent, the Supreme Court would have to rule that every religious reference would have to be removed from all official U.S. documents. This would mean a rewrite of the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution, and all 50 state constitutions, or at least the creation of an archival system that would allow students to see these documents only after they graduate from their government schools and are truly free citizens or if they get a note from mommy and daddy giving them permission to see the “historical pornography.”

If “under God” is removed from the Pledge, to be consistent, new coins would have to be struck and paper currency reprinted so they would no longer carry the motto “In God We Trust.” Francis Scott Key’s “Star Spangled Banner,” our National Anthem, would have to be rewritten because it carries the line, from which our nation’s motto is taken, “In God is our trust.” Of course, this is what the atheists want.

The Supreme Court opens each session, even the one where the Pledge case will ultimately be considered, with a marshal saying, “God save the United States and this honorable court.” This would have to stop. And I guess government employees could no longer claim December 25th as a paid holiday because it would be an endorsement of the Christian religion. This is the case I would like to see argued before the Supreme Court. To be consistent, all government employees would have to work on Saturdays, Sundays, and Christmas. Allowing government workers off on these days is an implicit endorsement of the Christian religion. Saturday is also a religious day for Jews. Public schools should also be opened on Saturday and Sunday because they are religious days. We don’t want to give the appearance that the government is endorsing religion. Give government workers and public school kids Monday and Tuesday off. There would be practical benefits in addition to the required secular status of the days off. The nation’s highways would be less congested on these two non-religious days since government employees and public school children would be at home, sleeping in on their weekend.

As an aside, I am not a big fan of the Pledge of Allegiance to any political entity, including the United States of America. I don’t like the fact that church sanctuaries post an American flag in a prominent position. 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.[1]

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!

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. Christian groups are wrangling over “under God” in the Pledge when God has been officially expunged for more than 40 years. I hope the courts rule that “under God” is unconstitutional or if not, “under Buddha,” “under Gaia,” or “under Muhammad,” the choice is yours, can also be said. Maybe then Christians will get the message that since God is not wanted, 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.


[1] Quoted in Terry Mattingly, “The Pledge of Conformity” (July 3, 2002).

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