By Dr. John Ed Mathison
John Ed Mathison Leadership Ministries
Should we say “Under God” in our Pledge and should our coins bear the motto “In God We Trust?” That is an ongoing legal, philosophic and religious debate.
Sacramento atheist Michael Newdow entered three law suits arguing that God should be removed from the Pledge and the coins. He says the phrase alienates non-religious people in the United States. An initial ruling in 2002 by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with Newdow. Years later, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed its decision and said that the phrase “under God” can remain in the Pledge of Allegiance because the phrase is religious but does not represent a prayer. A similar ruling was issued about “In God We Trust” being our motto on our currency because it said the use of “God” is ceremonial and patriotic, but not religious.
I am glad the Court reversed itself, but I regret it was done for the reasons stated. I hope God never just becomes a patriotic or ceremonial term. That has never been the case in the history of mankind, and specifically in the history of the United States.
The prophet Amos wrote, “For thus says the LORD to the house of Israel: ‘Seek Me and live’” (Amos 5:4). The psalmist David wrote, “Unless the LORD builds the house, they labor in vain who build it; unless the LORD guards the city, the watchman keeps awake in vain” (Psalm 127:1).
The first pilgrims made it clear that the colonies were being established “to the glory of God.” The framers of our Constitution recognized the role of God in our independence. Benjamin Franklin said, “The longer I live the more convincing proofs I see of this truth: that God governs in the affairs of men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without His notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without His aid?” Thomas Jefferson said, “The liberties of a nation are secure only when there is a firm conviction in the minds of her people that these liberties are the gift of God.”
That doesn’t sound like God was being used as ceremonial or patriotic. The Preamble to the Constitution of each of the fifty states contains some reference to God. Forty states
specifically call Him God, while the other ten refer to Supreme Ruler, Creator, Supreme Being, etc. This debate was pretty hot at the beginning of this century. A lot of that quickly changed when 9/11 occurred.
I understand that congressmen and government leaders on 9/12/01 quit debating about the use of God in public settings – they joined hands on the Capitol steps and started praying and singing “God Bless America.”
Baseball stadiums dropped the traditional 7 th Inning “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” and replaced it with “God Bless America.” It is amazing to me that we even debate this issue. We are here because of the goodness and grace of God. We will survive and prosper only as we accept God’s grace and goodness and live appropriately.
When Francis Scott Key penned our National Anthem, he ended the first verse with a question, “O say, does that star-spangled banner yet wave o’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?” I believe that is a legitimate question to ask today.
Most people don’t know that there are other verses to the National Anthem. Most people think the next verse is “Play ball!” The last verse ends with these words – “Then conquer we must / when our cause it is just / And this be our motto: ‘In God We Trust’.” The verse ends, not with a question but a statement. When we know what our motto is – “In God We Trust” – the future is not a question. That verse ends with the affirmation “And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave / o’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!”
Francis Scott Key got it right! The Bible got it right! Our forefathers got it right! Isn’t it time we get it right?
John Ed’s blog posts appear on For His Glory each week.
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