Keeping God In Our Pledge Maintains America's Soul
By Kevin Fobbs - December 7, 2009
Fifty-five years ago young children all across America walked into their respective schoolrooms and with pride bursting in their young chests they recited the Pledge of Allegiance. There was a new and deeper meaning reflected in the addition to this pledge – the words “under God" were inserted to read, in full, “one nation under God.”
Since that momentous year elementary school students all across America have recited this pledge – some hoping that their teacher will select them to stand in front of the classroom to proudly lead the recitation. Yet deep within the hardened hearts of some in America – led by infamous atheists like Madalyn Murray O'Hair – a concerted effort began to tear God away from our children in public schools.
O’Hair’s frontal assault, in her infamous and successful effort to take prayer out of our schools, also helped initiate the once-slow but now rapid-fire pace of the secularization of America – the effort to undermine and remove the character, principles, and heartland values of our nation.
Yet 50 years later many of us believed our heritage was safe when in June of 2004 Supreme Court unanimously ruled that the phrase "under God" may remain in the Pledge of Allegiance as recited in public school classrooms. Check that belief; it is not safe.
Just this week, on December 2nd, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott filed a brief with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit defending the constitutionality of the Texas Pledge of Allegiance which includes ‘one state under God’. Attorney General Abbott stated, “Just as it is perfectly constitutional for Texas schoolchildren to pledge their allegiance to ‘one nation under God,’ it is also constitutional for students to pledge their allegiance to ‘one state, under God,’”
To what end and for what purpose does removal of God from the state of Texas or from our national Pledge of Allegiance or removing his son Jesus Christ from our public square announcing his birth mean? The hope of those who denounce God and denounce Christ is to extinguish our connection in our spirit, in our heart, and most importantly in our soul; as if God or Christ and the principles and values that they exemplify never existed at all. “Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.” Ephesians 1:14
William J. Murray, the son of famed atheist Madalyn Murray O’Hair, is a tireless crusader for religious rights. He leads the Religious Freedom Coalition: www.rfcnet.org
. His latest book, The Pledge: One Nation Under God
asserts that atheistic forces, spearheaded by the ACLU and Michael Newdow whose California lawsuit seeking to outlaw the use of ‘under God’ in the Pledge of Allegiance was overturned by the U. S. Supreme Court, are engaging in a religious cleansing of American society. Murray firmly believes these forces seek to “replace faith in God with an atheistic, secularist, and heartless philosophy that has no respect for the belief that the human race is God’s creation.”
William J. Murray is correct in his assessment, and I believe it is both interesting and poignant that we fully understand why we must retain God in our Pledge of Allegiance.
Francis Bellamy (1855 - 1931), a Baptist minister wrote the original Pledge of Allegiance in August 1892. Another person of the cloth was responsible for bringing the nation's attention to the need to amend it in 1952 and again in 1954, when "under God," was added. Reverend George MacPherson Docherty was the original advocate of adding the words, "under God," to the Pledge of Allegiance. It became law by an Act of Congress signed by President Eisenhower on Flag Day, June 14, 1954.
Reverend Docherty had a school-age child, as did the litigant in the Supreme Court case. The reverend was concerned about what the words were not speaking. Reverend Docherty was concerned as he prepared his text for his sermon before 500 religious leaders in Washington D.C. that there was something essential missing. He wanted to convey all of our strengths as well as the depths of all of our sacrifices as a nation.
He found the answer in his child, who had recited the Pledge of Allegiance in school earlier that day but without the phrase "under God." He felt there was no way to distinguish our pledge from any other pledge of allegiance to any other flag, say of France, Iraq or Russia. “But when Jesus saw it, he was much displeased, and said unto them, Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God. Truly I say to you, Whoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein.” Mark 10:14-15
President Eisenhower, on whose watch those eloquently chosen words were inserted into our nation's pledge said, "Ought an individual be required to express a belief in God in order to express allegiance to our nation? No, but a responsible citizen should not be able to declare for all how allegiance to our nation is to be expressed. I find it almost impossible to believe that a non-believer in God is so threatened, so coerced, that constitutional protection must be granted and invoked - that his conscience is so broken by its utterance by others while he tries to express allegiance. How is ‘under God,’ to a non-believer in God threatened by those who so believe?"
That is exactly the question now as well. The phrase speaks to the very character of who we are as a nation and not to the simplistically crafted ideology that frames the phrase as an assault on the individual right of a parent to not have his or her child hear the words of the pledge because that parent believes that the phrase represents forced religion upon a child. President Eisenhower had it correct in 1954.
After the official congressional inclusion of "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance the then-president, speaking before the Supreme Council of the Knights of Columbus in Louisville, August 17, 1954, in recognition of their role in originating and sponsoring the amendment to the Pledge of Allegiance, said: "We are particularly thankful to you for your part in the movement to have the words 'under God' added to our Pledge of Allegiance. These words will remind Americans that despite our great physical strength we must remain humble. They will help us to keep constantly in our minds and hearts the spiritual and moral principles which alone give dignity to man and upon which our way of life is founded."
At the very cradle of our nation's creation we were a nation founded on spiritual and moral principles and, as President Eisenhower said, clearly upon "which our way of life is founded." That is a statement that speaks to the character of a nation not to the religious purpose of creating a national religion. “Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD; and the people whom he hath chosen for his own inheritance.” Psalm 33:12
Helen Keller – deaf and blind from infancy, a leader in some of the significant political, social, and cultural movements of the 20th century – personified the spirit of our nation. She spoke about character saying, "Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, vision cleared, ambition inspired, and success achieved." That is what "One nation under God" represents. It can be likened directly to what President Washington said when he spoke of our name "American," “which belongs to you and me in our national capacity and which must always exalt the pride of patriotism more than any appellation derived from local discriminations."
The words "One nation under God" is our standard, embodying the same meaning as the word “American.” The two are inseparable and indivisible.
Now, 50-plus years later, tens of millions of Americans who have raised families – many of who are now grandparents – are seeing this wonderful standard, this shining beacon of light of our culture not only being challenged but with it the feeling that the heart and soul of America is being ripped from its core.
In actuality our forefathers, who were uniquely qualified to understand the tyrannical history of a forced-belief system, understood that prayer in school and home was an open embrace for all belief systems or none. You were never expected to follow one belief system; just respect that we, as America, have one history and belief system based on Judeo-Christian roots. Ms. O'Hair totally missed the point that prayer in school was an attempt at inclusion, at unity which would encompass all who came to our nation's shores as well as remaining open to the millions who would come to our nation afterward. She got it all wrong, and what has she wrought? What are we left with?
We are left with a concerted effort over the past several decades to erode the very fabric, the standards that guide us, and determine who we are as Americans and the type of nation we are, the history of our creation.
Today it is politically correct to abandon the essence of America and replace it with a secular ideology that erodes and tears at the heart and soul of American families.
What we are really seeing is not a separation of church and state from public schools by removing “under God” from our Pledge of Allegiance but the true separation of the symbol of who we are from our children and the world and nation they will be inheriting in all areas of the public discourse.
As Americans we should not be shocked, amazed, or awed by the slow slide of our social values when prayer was removed from the classroom. The lack of courtesy, common manners, and respect for our elders should not appall us.
Where do we go from here? As Americans who live in a nation under God, we must draw a line in the sand and say clearly and convincingly that this assault upon our values and the attempt to strip our heritage from our culture must end. “Be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was.” James 1:22-24
In closing, let me remind you of another true patriot and wonderful American icon Red Skelton. He was one of our nation's most beloved comedians and star of movies, radio, and television. In January of 1969, Red Skelton gave his personal view of the Pledge of Allegiance. He spoke those words on his CBS TV The Red Skelton Hour
, in which he explained the meaning of each and every word of the Pledge of Allegiance http://video.yahoo.com/watch/142856/1202344
At the end of his reading he spoke the most telling phrase of all, "Wouldn't it be a pity if someone said, 'That's a prayer', and that it would be eliminated from schools too?"
We must win the war for the soul of America. Our children's future and the future they will inherit depends upon it.
I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.
One nation under God is America.
Kevin Fobbs is founder and president of a policy organization called National Urban Policy Action Council (NuPac
that supports conservative colorblind solutions to universal issues and domestic policies that impact urban America. Fobbs served as director of government and civic affairs for Soul Source, a Christian news magazine, and host of The Kevin Fobbs Show www.kevinfobbs.com.
Fobbs is predominantly known for his conservative views and values including his support for life and for championing Terri’s Day to honor Terri Schiavo with a day of national remembrance. Kevin has written his Community Concerns column for the Detroit News. He also discusses issues of faith, family and freedom in his columns for various conservative groups or websites, including Renew America (Alan Keyes' website), Commentary Today, Free Republic, and Liberty Post