NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Southern Baptist leaders responded strongly to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that the Pledge of Allegiance to the U.S. flag cannot be recited in public schools because the phrase “under God” endorses religion.
In a 2-1 decision, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that reciting the phrase was a violation of the constitutional separation of church and state and amounted to government endorsing religion.
The ruling means schoolchildren — in the nine Western states covered by the 9th District Court — cannot recite the pledge, according to The Associated Press.
“At a time when we celebrate our nation’s freedoms, I call upon our churches and their members to exercise their rights and express their dismay that such a decision would be made, and appeal to our leaders, lawmakers and legislatures that the very foolish decision be overturned,” said Jack Graham, president of the SBC and pastor of Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, Texas.
When asked if that included civil disobedience, Graham replied, “Yes.”
“I think that would include civil disobedience. We have the right to express ourselves on this. It is a very dangerous decision. If we keep walking away we are going to find ourselves in a nation we don’t even recognize.”
“I deeply regret the systematic attempt by some to remove God’s name from public life,” Graham said. “The strength of our nation is dramatically expressed in the Pledge of Allegiance as one nation under God. The Pledge expresses our country’s dependence upon God and the common good of faith. The current ruling is divisive rather than unifying and potentially damaging to the moral character of the nation.”
“As Christians we pray for an America in which the name of our God is publicly honored and reverenced,” he added.
SBC Executive Committee President Morris H. Chapman said the ruling is opposed to America’s heritage.
“This is a critical time for Christians to stand up and be heard,” Chapman said. “As the Fourth of July holiday approaches, we should be celebrating the heritage of our many founders’ deep and abiding faith in God, not attacking it.”
SBC Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission President Richard Land urged Christians to pray that the Supreme Court would overturn the ruling.
“Unless the Supreme Court stays or reverses this egregious decision, it may well be time for the people of the effected states to engage in massive, civil disobedience by voluntarily pledging allegiance to the flag in every public school every day at an agreed upon time whether the Ninth Circuit likes it or not,” Land said. “What are they going to do? Arrest a whole generation of patriotic school children?”
“This ruling is something that American people of faith needed,” said Jerry Falwell, pastor of Thomas Road Baptist Church and chancellor of Liberty University. “Political correctness has played itself out to the ultimate extreme. I believe anti-Christian philosophy needs to be purged from the American scene.”
Falwell urged Christians across the nation to stage a massive resistance to the ruling. “I am recommending that children everywhere, pledge allegiance whether they have been doing so or not. The courts can’t put all of America’s children in jail.”
Falwell called the ruling “the most absurd ruling of any federal appellate court in American history. “The fact that the secularists are committed to removing God from the public square is now unveiled for all to see,” he said. “It is also ironic that a California court where so many liberal jurists have been appointed is leading the vanguard.
Falwell urged voters to use the ruling as a litmus test in the upcoming Congressional elections.
“Every candidate for public office should be asked the question, do you agree or disagree,” he said. “If they say agree, then throw them all out.”
“It is a sad day in the life of our great nation and a repudiation of the very foundation upon which our country was founded and became great,” said William O. Crews, president of Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary. “I can’t imagine that the ruling will be allowed to stand; but should the unimaginable happen, it will demand that all believers intensify our efforts to be God’s salt and light in this increasingly dark culture.”