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During the week following the recent Fourth of July, the United States Congress did something which was not only right, but which also honored that day in July 233 years ago when America was freed from the bondage of tyranny. Both Houses of Congress acknowledged God by ordering the Architect of the Capitol to engrave “In God We Trust” and the Pledge of Allegiance containing the words “One Nation Under God” in prominent places at the entrance to the new Capitol Visitor Center in Washington, D.C. Despite a price tag of $621 million for the three-story underground facility, such recognitions of our religious heritage were conspicuously absent from the Visitor Center.
Soon thereafter, the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF), a group dedicated to removing any mention of God from the public square, filed suit in a Wisconsin federal court to stop the display of our National Motto and the Pledge, because in their own words, Congress’ order “diminishes nonbelievers by making god-belief synonymous with citizenship.” Such actions would have shocked John Adams, who helped draft the Declaration of Independence that we celebrate on July 4 and said that Independence Day “ought to be commemorated as the Day of Deliverance by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty.”
But truth, logic, or even the law do not seem to bother groups like FFRF. In its press release, FFRF claimed that Congress only added the words “under God” to the Pledge to “deny the atheistic and materialistic concepts of communism,” during the Cold War. What Congress actually intended was that, “The inclusion of God in our pledge therefore would (also) further acknowledge the dependence of our people and our Government upon the moral direction of the Creator.” Congress went on to explain that under God “in no way runs contrary to the provisions of the First Amendment to the Constitution. A distinction must be made between the existence of a religion as an institution and a belief in the sovereignty of God.” In 1954 until this day Congress, as our lawmaking branch, has consistently represented in the Pledge of Allegiance that the acknowledgment of God is not the establishment of a religion, but is an appropriate part of our law and history.
Unfortunately, the federal courts of our land do not understand the difference between the establishment of a religion prohibited by the First Amendment of the Constitution and the acknowledgment of the sovereignty of God. Instead, they rush around blindly to do everything they can to remove the recognition of God from our lives, from courthouses and school rooms to football games, public parks and state houses. In case after case, federal judges are more than willing to lend a sympathetic ear or gavel to those who want to remove that God upon whom our Founding Fathers staked “their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor.”
One such case occurred only two days after the FFRF suit was filed. The 8th Circuit Court of Appeals held that the South Iron R-1 School District outside St. Louis, Mo., was impermissibly endorsing a particular religion by allowing Gideons International to give away free Bibles to fifth-grade students in public schools. Ayesha Khan, who represented the ultra-liberal Americans United for Separation of Church and State, smugly stated, “This battle has gone on far too long. It is past time for school officials in this district to obey the clear commands of the First Amendment. They must respect the rights of parents and the constitutional separation of church and state.”
For once I must agree with Khan: This battle has gone on far too long! The federal courts must stop ruling on “empathy” and feelings of those before their court who are offended at the recognition of a sovereign God. The federal courts need to respect the rights of the great majority of the American people who believe in God and recognize that the only purpose of the religion clause of the First Amendment is to preserve the rights of conscience given to us by the Creator.
Rep. Louis Rabaut, who introduced Joint Resolution 243 before the House regarding the placement of “Under God” in our pledge, explained in the Congressional Record of Feb. 12, 1954, that “Children and Americans of all ages must know that this is one Nation which under God means liberty and justice for all.” Thomas Jefferson would have wholeheartedly agreed, for he stated, “God who gave us life gave us liberty.” He then asked, “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 of the Gift of God?”
On the Fourth of July and throughout the year Americans must proudly proclaim that this is One Nation Under God with liberty and justice for all! It wouldn’t hurt the courts to recognize that truth either.