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America's Culture War: Founding Fathers

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God and the Pledge of Allegiance

by  Dave Miller, Ph.D.

Here we go again. A federal judge in Sacramento, California has ruled that reciting the Pledge of Allegiance in public schools is unconstitutional. U.S. District Court Judge Lawrence Karlton ruled that the reference to “one nation under God” violates the constitutional right of students to be “free from a coercive requirement to affirm God” (“Federal Judge Rules...,” 2005). Fortunately, there are those who recognize the audacity and absurdity of such an action—which entails the usurpation of the Constitution. The Pledge Protection Act, introduced by Congressman Todd Akin of Missouri, would restrict the jurisdiction of the federal courts from ruling on the constitutionality of the Pledge (Akin, 2003).

During the last 40 years or so, America has moved farther and farther away from God and its original religious moorings. A small but growing number of liberal politicians, educators, entertainers, and activist judges have been working feverishly to expel Christianity from public life and to transform American civilization into a religionless (or religiously neutral) country. Their central strategy has been their claim that the Founding Fathers (and the Constitution they wrote) rejected references to the God of the Bible or the Christian religion in public life—whether in the government, public schools, or the community. They claim that references to the Christian religion in schools violate the principle of “separation of church and state,” and specifically, the “establishment clause” of the First Amendment.

It was Adolf Hitler who is purported to have said: “By means of shrewd lies, unremittingly repeated, it is possible to make people believe that heaven is hell—and hell heaven. The greater the lie, the more readily it will be believed.” In actuality, the Constitution makes no reference to any notion of an alleged separation of church and state—a phrase which the late Chief Justice William Rehnquist labeled “a misleading metaphor,” insisting that it ought to be “frankly and explicitly abandoned” (Wallace v. Jaffree). The Founding Fathers did not believe that the Christian religion should be banned from public life—since they, themselves, frequently referred to God in their official public actions, statements, and written documents. The Declaration of Independence, for example, refers to the “Creator,” “Nature’s God,” “Divine Providence,” and “the Supreme Judge of the world”—four unmistakable references to the God of the Bible.

While the Pledge was written in the late 1800s, the words “under God” were added in 1954 by Congress at the behest of President Dwight Eisenhower. At the time, he stated: “In this way we are reaffirming the transcendence of religious faith in America’s heritage and future; in this way we shall constantly strengthen those spiritual weapons which forever will be our country’s most powerful resource in peace and war” (“Pledge of Allegiance...,” 2002). Yet a liberal, activist federal judge in 2005 would have us to believe that the Congress of the United States—the legislative body who made a law in harmony with the consent of the governed, those millions of Americans whom they represented at the time—as well as the millions of American teachers and students who have repeated those words for over 50 years now, have all been in direct violation of the Constitution and the will of the Founders? Ridiculous! Such foolishness flies in the face of voluminous evidence to the contrary (see, for example, Barton, 2000).

But what about all the atheists, Buddhists, Hindus, Native Americans, et al. who do not share the Christian values and belief system that dominated the nation for the first 180+ years? Is not the use of the Pledge “insensitive” and “offensive” to them and their children? To put this question into perspective, consider another question: what about all the atheists, Buddhists, Hindus, Native Americans, et al. who attended public schools from 1954 to the present—before “under God” was challenged? History records that America has always had individuals within her borders who have not shared the Christian worldview of the Founders (though they have always been in a minority). What about them? Were they treated “insensitively” in violation of the Constitution? Answer: the Founders certainly did not think so—nor did their judicial and political successors for nearly two centuries. While they did not advocate the persecution of atheists or those who embrace false religious ideologies, neither did they indicate that provision or adjustments were to be made in public life to accommodate such erroneous belief systems! In fact, they insisted that it was only because the American Republic was grounded on the free exercise of Christian principles that enabled non-Christian citizens not to be persecuted (see State Supreme Court cases City Council of Charleston v. Benjamin, 1846 and Lindenmuller v. The People, 1860). Imagine what would happen to an atheist if he went to a Muslim nation and insisted that they adjust their social policies in order to avoid offending his unbelief!

Did the Founders intend to create a nation that adjusts itself to accommodate every ideology, religion, and hair-brained philosophy that comes to our shores? They did not. To do so now is to undermine the foundations of the Republic. Besides, it is impossible to please everybody. The world religions conflict with and contradict each another. The only sane course to follow, the only one that will perpetuate the Republic, is the one articulated by the psalmist some three millennia ago: “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord” (Psalm 33:12). “For the nation and kingdom which will not serve [God] shall perish” (Isaiah 60:12).

REFERENCES

Akin Todd (2003), “We Must Keep ‘Under God’ in the Pledge,” [On-line], URL: http://www.house.gov/akin/updates/20030825ed.html.

Barton, David (2000), Original Intent (Aledo, TX: WallBuilder Press), third edition.

City Council of Charleston v. Benjamin (1848), 2 Strob. L. 508 (S. C. 1848).

“Federal Judge Rules Reciting Pledge in Schools Unconstitutional” (2005), Fox News, September 15, [On-line], URL: http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,169379,00.html.

Lindenmuller v. The People (1861), 33 Barb (N.Y.) 548.

“Pledge of Allegiance Declared Unconstitutional” (2002), June 26, [On-line], URL: http://usgovinfo.about.com/library/weekly/aa062602a.htm.

Wallace v. Jaffree, 472 U.S. 38, 92 (1984).




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