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"Under God"

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On September 14, 2005, Lawrence Karlton, a U.S. District Judge in San Francisco set the stage for another round of attacks on freedom.  The Ninth Circuit will likely race again toward the rejection of the unalienable rights that safeguard our freedoms.  The court seeks to rule unconstitutional a national acknowledgement that citizens have a God-given right to freedom from tyranny.

On June 26, 2002, in San Francisco, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that reciting the Pledge of Allegiance in public schools is unconstitutional because of the words ``under God'' inserted by Congress in 1954. (For Opinion - Newdow v. U.S. Congress, et. al., 00-16423 (9th Cir. 2002))  The ruling is a shocking rejection of the unalienable Rights that safeguard our freedoms.  The case was reversed on procedural grounds before the U.S. Supreme Court.

In contrast on August 10, 2005, the Fourth Circuit in Myers v. Loudon County Pub. Schs, 418 F.3d 395 (2005) stated "The [Establishment Clause], however, does not say that in every and all aspects there shall be a separation of Church and State." Zorach v. Clauson, 343 U.S. 306, 312, 96 L. Ed. 954, 72 S. Ct. 679 (1954). Instead, the Establishment Clause must also be viewed with the understanding that "we are a religious people whose institutions presuppose a Supreme Being." Id. at 313. "The fact that the Founding Fathers believed devotedly that there was a God and that the unalienable rights of man were rooted in Him is clearly evidenced in their writings, from the Mayflower Compact to the Constitution itself." Abington Sch. Dist. v. Schempp, 374 U.S. 203, 213, 10 L. Ed. 2d 844, 83 S. Ct. 1560 (1963). The Establishment Clause "does not prohibit practices which by any realistic measure create none of the dangers which it is designed to prevent and which do not so directly or substantially involve the state in religious exercises . . . as to have meaningful and practical impact." Id. at 308 (Goldberg, J., concurring). Thus, the Court has "declined to construe the Religion Clauses with a literalness that would undermine the ultimate constitutional objective as illuminated by history." Walz v. Tax Comm'n, 397 U.S. 664, 671, 25 L. Ed. 2d 697, 90 S. Ct. 1409 (1970).  The Court continued, Apart from the practice of legislative prayer upheld in Marsh, the history surrounding our nation's founding is filled with activities similar in kind that illuminate our resolution of this case. The Declaration of Independence, composed by Thomas Jefferson in 1776, asserted that all men were "endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights," and claimed that the colonists had the right to "dissolve the political bands" because of "the laws of nature and of nature's God." The Declaration of Independence para. 1 (U. S. 1776). The Constitution itself claims it was completed in the "Year of Our Lord" 1787, and exempts Sundays from the President's ten-day period to exercise his veto power. U.S. Const. art. VII; art. I § 7. The First Congress "urged President Washington to proclaim a day of public thanksgiving and prayer, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts, the many and signal favours of Almighty God." Lynch v. Donnelly, 465 U.S. 668, 675 n. 2, 79 L. Ed. 2d 604, 104 S. Ct. 1355 (1984) (internal quotation marks omitted). In response, President Washington proclaimed such a day to "offer[]our prayers and thanksgiving to the Great Lord and Ruler of Nations, and beseech Him to pardon our national and other transgressions."

The Fourth Circuit continued, "The recognition of religion in these early public pronouncements is important, unless we are to presume the "founders of the United States [were] unable to understand their own handiwork." Sherman v. Cmty Consol. Sch. Dist. 21, 980 F.2d 437, 445 (7th Cir. 1992). These patriotic references to the Deity, moreover, are not limited to the time surrounding the founding of our nation. The Supreme Court has opened its sessions since the time of Chief Justice John Marshall in the early nineteenth century with "God save the United States and this honorable court." Engel, 370 U.S. at 446 (Stewart, J., dissenting). Our own court, since its infancy in 1891, has opened sessions with the same refrain. President Abraham Lincoln, in his Gettysburg Address, made famous the very phrases to which Myers now objects: "That we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain; that this Nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom; and that government of the people, by the people, and for the people shall not perish from the Earth." 9 Annals of America 463 (Encyclopedia Britannica 1968) (emphasis added). Following the Civil War, in 1865, Congress  mandated the inscription of "In God We Trust" on coins. Act of Mar. 3, 1865, ch. 100 § 5, 13 Stat. 518. In 1956 Congress made this slogan the National Motto, 36 U.S.C.A. § 302 (West 2001) and required its placement on all United States currency. 31 U.S.C.A. § 5112(d)(1) (West Supp. 2005)."

This conflict between the Ninth Circuit and the Fourth Circuit is significant.

July 4, 1776, Congress of the 13 United States of America adopted the Declaration of Independence.  At its core, this country began with the firm conviction that the rights that we cherish and hold most dear were given by God.  The founders affirmed,  "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."

Against the backdrop of a world where powers imposed by force its own religious orthodoxy without regard to an individual's own religious convictions, on the 21st of February, 1787, Congress adopted the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, which states in part, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof...."

Acknowledging our reliance and dependence upon God does not establish a religion–it guarantees our freedoms based upon God-given "unalienable Rights."  Any attempt to remove a national acknowledgment is an invitation to the extinction of "unalienable Rights."  Removing our national acknowledgment of God will result in the tyranny of "might makes right."

Thomas Jefferson in his Notes on the State of Virginia, wrote "Can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are the gift of God?"

In these uncertain times with terror on every side, I trust that the nation and the United States Supreme Court will join with the founding fathers in rejecting the Ninth Circuit's liberal path that, if unchecked, will one day result in the loss of freedom and hold to the words of the Declaration of Independence, "with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor."

Thomas H. Roberts, Esq.
Civil Right Attorney
Freedom Works Foundation