I recently examined T.H. Matteson’s engraving depicting the first prayer in Congress, Sept. 24, 1774, in Philadelphia’s Carpenters Hall. In the illustration, Jacob Duche kneels at a podium, his eyes raised toward heaven as he recites his legendary prayer. Members of Congress, many of them on their knees, humbly participate in the beseeching of God to grant His blessings on the young nation.
While the etching is an embellished account of the event, Mr. Duche’s earnest prayer reveals the godly fervor that inhabited that august body that day:
Lord our Heavenly Father, High and Mighty King of kings, and Lord of lords, who dost from thy throne behold all the dwellers on earth and reignest with power supreme and uncontrolled over all the Kingdoms, Empires and Governments; look down in mercy, we beseech thee, on these our American States, who have fled to thee from the rod of the oppressor and thrown themselves on Thy gracious protection, desiring to be henceforth dependent on Thee, to Thee have they appealed for the righteousness of their cause; to Thee do they now look up for that countenance and support, which Thou alone canst give; take them, therefore, Heavenly Father, under Thy nurturing care; give them wisdom in Council and valor in the field; defeat the malicious designs of our cruel adversaries; convince them of the unrighteousness of their Cause and if they persist in their sanguinary purposes, of own unerring justice, sounding in their hearts, constrain them to drop the weapons of war from their unnerved hands in the day of battle!
Be Thou present, O God of wisdom, and direct the councils of this honorable assembly; enable them to settle things on the best and surest foundation. That the scene of blood may be speedily closed; that order, harmony and peace may be effectually restored, and truth and justice, religion and piety, prevail and flourish amongst Thy people. Preserve the health of their bodies and vigor of their minds; shower down on them and the millions they here represent, such temporal blessings as Thou seest expedient for them in this world and crown them with everlasting glory in the world to come. All this we ask In the Name and through the merits of Jesus Christ, Thy Son and our Savior. Amen.”
Fast forward now nearly 230 years to present-day America, where the U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday heard arguments on whether the diminutive phrase “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance is a violation of the so-called “separation of church and state.” We have reached this low point in our nation’s history because a federal appeals court actually ruled last year in favor of an egocentric atheist named Michael Newdow who abhors our freedoms of religious expression.
The members of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals conveniently ignored the obvious fact that this nation was founded by men of deep and abiding religious convictions, men who valued public expressions of faith, even within the hallowed walls of the early Congress. Sadly, many modern-day jurists – court jesters, if you will – are on a campaign to sanction ever-changing politically correct ideals instead of following the rule of law. There is literally no telling what this type of legal belief system could ultimately bring about.
Mathew Staver of the Orlando, Fla.-based Liberty Counsel filed an amicus brief at the court in the Pledge case. The brief draws the court’s attention to the vast reservoir of public acknowledgments of God in our nation’s revered history. Mr. Staver told me that the brief traces many presidential proclamations throughout the years that have unequivocally alluded to God and invoked His blessings on America. The brief also traces the inaugural addresses of every president – from George Washington to George W. Bush – and lists each time they acknowledged God in their addresses.
Additionally, he notes that the founding documents of America acknowledge God – from Virginia’s first charter to the Manifesto of the Continental Congress. The brief describes how every state constitution acknowledges God; it also argues that God is the foundation of our freedom and our laws.
Here are just a couple of examples of presidents and founders invoking God:
President John F. Kennedy, in his inaugural address, eloquently stated, “The rights of man come not from the generosity of the state, but from the hand of God.” Benjamin Franklin wrote, “Freedom is not a gift bestowed upon us by other men, but a right that belongs to us by the laws of God.” Thomas Jefferson, whose “separation of church and state” metaphor has been manipulated to advance the stark secularist agenda, exhorted, “[It is] God who gave us liberty. And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are a Gift of God?”
Mr. Staver said, “The phrase ‘under God’ in the Pledge in no way establishes a religion. American history is a religious history. When the court views the long-standing history that illuminates our common heritage, they should easily uphold the phrase in the Pledge of Allegiance.”
Our founders would have had no tolerance for Mr. Newdow or modern jurists who purposely ignore our nation’s evident history of reverencing God. I don’t know what kind of America they are trying to create, but it is certainly not the America envisioned by Washington, Madison, Jefferson, Franklin or any other of the noble men who labored to ensure that religious liberty was a key component of this nation.