God and country

by Bill Monson

Here ya are, just in time for Independence Day, two wild and wacky court decisions--one courtesy of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco, the other by the Supreme Court.

One says the Pledge of Allegiance is unconstitutional because it contains the words ''under God;'' the other says it's okay to give taxpayers/ money to parents for vouchers which can be used in parochial schools.

In the case of the Pledge, a stay was immediately granted since there are 11 judges on the Court of Appeals, and a panel of only three of them made the decision. That means it could still be reversed without ever going to the Supreme Court; but even that decision will probably be appealed--so the Supremes are gonna get their chance on the Pledge any way you look at it.

A lot of people are upset by both decisions. They're not necessarily the same people; but at least one poll says over 90 percent of Americans favor having ''under God'' in the Pledge. Is it just habit or a fervent belief in the rightness of the phrase?

Growing up in Galesburg, the Pledge I learned at Farnham School did not include ''under God;'' and I don't think it affected my patriotism any. I could live without it again, but I don't like what might follow.

For example, if ''God'' goes from the Pledge, what about our National Motto?

What's that? You don't know our National Motto? Why, it's ''In God We Trust'' and it also appears on our coins. The motto first appeared on U.S. coins in 1864 when Congress passed an act authorizing the coinage of a two-cent piece using it. It did not become our National Motto until 1956, however.

It was probably taken from the line in the fourth verse of ''The Star-Spangled Banner''-- our National Anthem! -- which says:

''Then conquer we must

when our cause if is just,

And this be our motto:

'In God is our trust!'''

Do you see what I mean? You start throwing out ''God,'' and you have to tinker with a lot more than just the Pledge.

Like the Declaration of Independence, which is our celebration of the week. Jefferson referred in several ways to God: ''Nature's God,'' ''Divine Providence'' and of course in that great sentence: ''We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.''

Other great American documents might have to be banished from study in our schools--like the Mayflower Compact of 1620, which is full of mentions of God, and Lincoln's Gettysburg Address, which uses ''this nation under God.'' And his Emancipation Proclamation invokes ''the gracious favor of Almighty God.'' Woe betide anyone who sings ''America'' (''God shed His grace on thee'') or ''God Bless America'' in school.

Like many Americans, I think stretching the First Amendment to wall off church and state, God and Country, has gone a little too far. After all, it says: ''Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof...''

Mentioning ''God'' doesn't seem to me to establish a religion, and those who seek to eliminate any mention of ''God'' in our official documents, mottoes, anthem, coinage would seem to be trying to establish Non-Religion as the official position of our country; and any study of our heritage would give the lie to that. ''God'' has been a part of American history since the beginning. Exactly what ''God''-- Jewish, Christian, Muslim, American Indian, whatever -- was left up to the individual -- deliberately vague. To try to exile ''God'' seems part of the current amoralizing of America and it demoralizes me at our most patriotic time of the year.

Uploaded to The Zephyr website July 2, 2002

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