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FIRST-PERSON: Court decision is perplexing

FORT WORTH, Texas (BP)–I am saddened and utterly perplexed by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling. At a time when our president has called our nation to prayer it seems incomprehensible to me that the appeals court would rule the phrase ‘one nation under God’ unconstitutional.

It appears to be an attempt to rewrite our nation’s history to accommodate a view that is deemed politically correct, yet denies the great heritage of our nation and the vision of many of our founding fathers. From a practical standpoint the pledge also appeals to the need for national unity, and such a ruling is divisive at a critical moment in our nation’s history.

Early Baptists influential in the formation of the First Amendment believed that the conscience of each human being should be free to determine his or her own beliefs in a free state and a free church. They were not, however, openly hostile to public expressions of belief in God, regardless of whether it was a Christian, Jewish, or Muslim expression. The word “God” in the pledge of allegiance is sufficiently vague to encompass more than simply Christian expressions of faith, and there is no compulsion to assent to one particular faith by the recitation of the words ‘under God.’ The phrase violates no constitutional injunction and coerces no one.

At best the expression is a ‘theistic’ expression. Men such as Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin often referred to God ambiguously and only as one who guides the course of nations. For this reason, we see references to trust in God, Providence, or a higher divine consciousness on U.S. currency. For example, the phrase annuit coeptis on the Great Seal of the one dollar bill is a reference to God. It means, ‘It [Providence] has favored our endeavors.’ Will the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals recall all federal currency that has such slogans?

Are children no longer allowed to say the pledge? If so, that would seem to be an infringement on free speech and religious liberty. The court has violated the right to express one’s religious beliefs while attempting to implement a legalistic definition of the ‘no establishment’ clause. Pledging allegiance to the flag and to the United States as one nation under God never has had anything to do with establishing a church. The ruling proceeds on the false assumption that the Constitution somehow forbids any reference to God by the state.

Since the pledge has been ruled unconstitutional, doesn’t it follow that the Declaration of Independence — which appeals to inalienable rights endowed by our Creator — would also be unconstitutional? In that case, one of the most fundamental documents of our country now should be considered inconsistent with the principles on which she was founded. Isn’t that too implausible to be taken seriously?

We trust that the nation’s Highest Court will continue to show mercy on judges and the people of the United States in spite of the increasing contempt shown toward God by the nation’s court rulings.

    About the Author

  • Kenneth S. Hemphill