Religion is tradition, not threat, in Pledge of Allegiance

Recent debates, such as those over the Iraq war have brought up many questions about the nature of true patriotism.

Is it more patriotic to support the war or to protest against it?

Both sides seem to have completely different opinions.

Just as the war generates a lot of this controversy, so do the developments over the use of the Pledge of Allegiance in public schools.

Is atheist activist Michael Newdow, who successfully petitioned Senior District Court Judge Lawrence K. Karlton to ban the pledge in Sacramento school districts, being patriotic and trying to do what our founding fathers wanted? Or is he dead wrong?

The fact is, the pledge is consistent with our government’s and nation’s historical acknowledgment of a higher power.

This country was founded in large part by religious people fleeing oppression in Europe. All types of mainly Christian denominations settled in America like Anglicans, Quakers, Puritans, Catholics and many more.

When the Revolutionary War rolled around, this spirit and belief in God still persisted.

The famous Declaration of Independence was mostly drafted by Thomas Jefferson, an atheist who made four different mentions of God in it.

Most importantly, the declaration mentions that the Creator is the source of all rights and that God is the “Supreme Judge of the World.”

Some might say that the Constitution, ratified some 13 years later, has no religious references.

I would have them consider the words of Declaration cosigner and future president John Adams as he laid down his thoughts on government and religion during the signing of the Constitution.

“We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Avarice, ambition, revenge, or gallantry, would break the strongest cords of our Constitution as a whale goes through a net. Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”

The best example of a government official’s devotion to God was our first and probably greatest president, George Washington.

In 1789, in a speech establishing the holiday of Thanksgiving (to God), Washington said, “Whereas it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor; and Whereas both Houses of Congress have, by their joint committee, requested me ‘to recommend to the people of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.'”

The ideals of the Declaration and our founders are consistent with the Pledge of Allegiance.

Written in 1892, the pledge was intended to be a patriotic exercise and was altered over the years, most significantly in the 1950s, to include “under God.”

Although atheists are quick to shoot around the buzz word McCarthyism to try to invalidate the reasons our countrymen inserted “under God” – we were trying to differentiate ourselves from the godless Soviet Union – one can see the change was by no means contradictory with the ideas of our founding fathers.

Some Supreme Court Justices, whose opening statements include “God save this honorable court,” thought the same way when Newdow brought his appeal to them in 2004.

Although the merits of the constitutionality of the pledge were not decided due to Newdow’s inability to sue on behalf of his child, over whom he had no custody, certain members of the court weighed in on the matter.

The late Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist wrote, “I do not believe that the phrase ‘under God’ in the Pledge converts its recital into a ‘religious exercise’… Instead, it is a declaration of belief in allegiance and loyalty to the United States flag and the Republic that it represents. The phrase ‘under God’ is in no sense a prayer, nor an endorsement of any religion, but a simple recognition.”

Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor concurred with Rehnquist.

A handful of atheist activists like Newdow may claim that they are saving the Constitution or the country by getting rid of all mention of God in governance, despite their deafness to the huge outcry from a majority of their fellow citizens.

Faced with the enormity of the total evidence pertaining to the original intent of the framers and scores of American lawmakers and citizens past and present, it becomes difficult to see exactly how these activists can claim they are bringing anything but shame and dishonor to these great men and women and the nation they loved and served.

It has been made abundantly clear through history and the interpretation of the Constitution that acknowledgments of God should stay a part of American public life and any detraction from this policy would make great men like Washington, Adams, Jefferson and Franklin cry out from their graves in protest.

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