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West Coast Baptists appalled, concerned about Pledge ruling

LA PUENTE, Calif. (BP)–Pastors and lay leaders throughout the western United States expressed dismay at the June 26 ruling by the Ninth Circuit Court that public school recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance was unconstitutional.

“Appalling” and “wake-up call” were the words used by several to express their concern for the court’s stance on the words “under God” used since 1954 in the pledge.

“I am appalled and concerned about this ruling,” said E.W. McCall Sr., pastor of St. Stephen Missionary Baptist Church in this eastern Los Angeles suburb and second vice president of the Southern Baptist Convention.

Christians in the United States by and large have abdicated to secular society’s perspective on life, and rulings like Roe vs. Wade and this one by the Ninth Circuit Court are the result, he said.

“Those of us who understand who God is must rise up in this issue,” McCall said. “We need to pray for our nation and we need to speak up and be heard. We must take the platform back.”

The ninth circuit court covers the largest area of the federal court system’s 11 regional circuits. It includes the states of California, Arizona, Nevada, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana, Hawaii, Alaska, Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands.

Members at Tammany View Baptist Church, Lewiston, Idaho, discussed the ruling during their Wednesday evening service.

“The real question is not whether our country gets all fired up about words in a pledge,” Pastor Tim Palmer said. “The real question is do we understand what it means to be one nation under God. This ruling is an opportunity for us as Christians to demonstrate that not only by what we say in our pledges but by the way we live our lives that we live ‘under God.'”

Tammany View members then spent time in prayer for people in the United States to come back to God and to recognize the only way to be under God and in his favor is through Christ, Palmer added.

Don Reeves is pastor of Grant Avenue Baptist Church in Corvallis, Ore. He talked about the wake-up call to Christians the Ninth Court’s ruling could be.

“We have come to a point in our country where we have absolutely and totally forgotten our history and we where we have come from,” Reeves said. “We have warped our history intentionally, and [deleted the fact] that God had an integral part in our nation from its inception. The Ninth Circuit Court has underscored that warped history for everyone.

“Maybe this will be a wake-up call,” Reeves said, echoing the words of several other pastors in the West contacted by Baptist Press about the ruling. “I hope it will wake us up, to show people how far we have come.”

Christianity was begun in an “anything goes” era when people were not conducive to accepting God,” Reeves said.

“The church can survive in an anti-God world just fine but our nation needs to understand that’s where we’re headed,” said the former president of the Northwest Baptist Convention. “We’ve gone that way — pretty much knowingly gone that way. We’ve taken deliberate steps as a country to walk that direction, perhaps not knowing the consequences.

“But I don’t think we as Christians can get so hyper about that that we forget God is God no matter what anybody says,” Reeves said. “We need to live our faith, number one, and number two, to be involved in the political and judicial process. And for that matter, be more involved in life in general,” he added, including putting youngsters in public schools rather than separating them into Christian schools.

Kevin White, pastor of First Baptist Church in Longview, Wash., is current president of the Northwest Baptist Convention.

“This ruling is an attack on Christian values and principles and American traditions,” White said. “We were established as a Christian nation under God. What I told my church last night was that I don’t know what God has in store for America in this but He has some plan so we need to just trust Him with it and respond properly.

“I wonder if God has allowed this to happen because for years we haven’t acted as a nation under God and we haven’t really trusted Him as we say on our money,” White added. “Our own declaration says we’ve been given all our rights by God. This ruling is an attack on Christianity and God and America itself — and the Declaration of Independence.”

John Mark Simmons said he wasn’t surprised by the ruling of the Ninth Circuit Court. He is pastor of Highland Hills Baptist Church in Henderson, Nev., a Las Vegas suburb, and president of the Nevada Baptist Convention.

“This ruling seems to be just part of the trend of our country distancing itself from God,” Simmons said. “I agree with President Bush that it’s ridiculous.”

The Las Vegas area includes the Clark County School District, the sixth largest school district in the United States. Superintendent Carlos Garcia told the Las Vegas Sun daily newspaper that teachers in the year-round school system were told to start today as if it were any other day, with the Pledge of Allegiance being recited by all who chose to say it.

“Certainly as America we’ve gotten away from God,” Pastor Simmons said. “It seems with our prosperity and good things our attitude over the last 50 years is that we don’t need Him.

“I see this ruling as just another step to the secularization of our nation,” Simmons added. “I don’t know if I would lay the blame on Christians. If there’s a positive aspect, it’s a wake-up call for Christians in our country that our Christian heritage is indeed slipping away.”

“I just believe the Supreme Court has a right and obligation to overturn anything that undermines the framework upon which this nation was founded,” McCall said. “If we keep on doing this — allowing these rulings that undermine us — we won’t be about anything as a nation. If the vocal wrong is allowed to speak for us then we’re going to have a problem in this nation.

“We can’t allow them to speak for us,” McCall continued. “If we allow this ruling to stand they will continue to encroach further and further and try to make us — those of us who understand the Lord — to be portrayed as an atheistic state and nation and that is not who we are. It is time for us to pray for our nation, that we do not allow these types of behavior to undermine our nation.