AMERICANS NOT ASKING TO STRIKE 'UNDER GOD'
The Declaration of Independence, a young colony's effort 226 years ago to pull away from its smothering master across the Atlantic, contained a clear reference to deity:
"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."
The phrase in the Pledge of Allegiance, one nation "under God," was approved by Congress in 1954 and signed into law by President Eisenhower.
The addition of "under God" was an appropriate link to the United States' foundational belief in a higher power.
The phrase has withstood the test of nearly 50 years. It has been recited regularly at public events, service club meetings and in public schools. Students who object to "under God" or any other part of the pledge have the legal right to stay silent and not recite it.
A ruling last week by a panel of the 9th U.S. Court of Appeals in San Francisco has the potential to strike "under God" from the pledge. That would be wrong. Eliminating "under God" would further distance the nation from its historical roots of trusting in the Creator to foster its birth and guide its destiny.
Appellate Judge Alfred T. Goodwin, a former circuit court judge in Oregon, wrote the decision, concluding that schools cannot have students recite the pledge. The phrase, Goodwin said, amounts to an official endorsement of monotheism.The judges' panel working with him on the opinion concurred, 2-1.
The ruling, which will be reheard by the same three-judge panel or by the entire 11 judges on the appellate court, smacks in the face of a nation that has had a resurgence of interest in religion following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11. Patriotic and religious feelings are running high in the nation this July 4.
It would be insensitive to sweep the "under God" phrase out of the pledge. The phrase does not establish any particular religion. Its general reference to deity could apply to the views of many Americans, including Protestant, Catholic, Jewish and Islam.
The public is not demanding elimination of the phrase. In fact, shortly after last week's ruling, the U.S. Senate passed a resolution 99-0, expressing support for "under God." That kind of backing from both Democrats and Republicans is significant.
If Goodwin's ruling passes muster by the entire 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, it should be quickly sent on to the U.S. Supreme Court for review.
Removal of the phrase clearly is out of step with the conservative Supreme Court, members of Congress and with mainstream America.