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UPDATE: Southern Baptist leaders react strongly to ruling

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, said, “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.”

“The U. S. Court which has made this ruling has de facto imposed atheism on the American public,” R. Philip Roberts, president of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, said. “It has refused them their constitutional right to say the words ‘under God.’ Under the guise of the separation of church and state the court concerned has supported an atheistic worldview, a clearly religious position. The ridiculousness of the judges’ position is further highlighted by the fact that the pledge and the words ‘under God’ contained within are always spoken voluntarily and not by imposition. There was therefore absolutely no need for this ruling. Could it be that the lunatics are running the asylum?”

“I believe Abraham Lincoln once said the United States had a government “of the people, by the people, and for the people,” said Chuck Kelley, president of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. “I cannot recall a judicial decision in my lifetime more out of touch with the people the judiciary is supposed to serve than this profoundly disappointing decision.”

“The past two days have given Americans a fast lesson in civics and the importance of the judiciary,” said R. Albert Mohler, president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky. “The Ninth Circuit panel’s ruling on the Pledge of Allegiance is an example of the secularist agenda pushed by those who would remove every reference to God from public life–no matter how cherished or symbolic. This panel demonstrated antipathy to the American people and their patriotism. No one would confuse the Pledge of Allegiance with evangelism.”

If the two words “under God” are an unconstitutional government establishment of religion, we will have to remove the Declaration of Independence from our courthouse walls–with apologies, of course, to the Creator who endowed us with certain unalienable rights,” Mohler added. “We must hope for a quick reversal of this decision upon appeal.”

“For years, some have warned of a judicial usurpation of democracy,” he said. “The outrageous action of this panel is a wake-up call for Americans and a reminder that federal judges hold incredible power. It matters who sits on those courts.

“The Supreme Court’s decision in the Zelman case is extremely significant for America’s families. This decision is a real victory for democracy and the concept of true charitable choice.

“In approving the Cleveland program, the high court gave parents and children the same liberties granted to veterans through the ‘GI Bill.’ Put simply, the decision removes an unlawful discrimination against religion and religious schools. The voucher movement is certain to spread across America as parents throughout the nation will demand the same choices for their children. This removes the unhealthy monopoly the public schools have abused for so many years.”

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  • Todd Starnes