The United States Supreme Court recently heard an appeal of a lower court decision that ruled last year that the addition of "under God" turned the pledge into a "profession of religious belief" and made it constitutionally unsuitable for daily recitation in the public schools. Justice Souter asked whether the recitation had become in practice "so tepid, so diluted… that in fact it should be, in effect, beneath the constitutional radar." Was it the case, Justice Souter asked, that by "the way we live and think and work in schools and in civic society in which the pledge is made, that whatever is distinctively religious as an affirmation is simply lost?"
The case hinges on whether the words “under God” have any religious significance or not. If they do, they are not constitutionally permissible. The court has previously held that such phrases as “In God we trust” on our coins are constitutional because they are only ceremonial expressions and have no religious significance.
To me the words “under God” and “In God We Trust” are not just ceremonial. I certainly do not regard them as “tepid” phrases. I don’t think God does either. To regard them as “tepid” expressions is profane.
Chuck Colson once expressed his opposition to school sponsored prayer because, if permitted at all, it could only be the “watered down” sort. He did not want the faith of his granddaughter to be “watered down.”
I don’t want any tepid government endorsement of God. God doesn’t need it. On the other hand, I do want our school children to learn about religion because I want them to be well educated. There is no way that anyone can understand the American civil rights movement, or Al Qaeda and 9/11, or the history or contemporary situation of the United States and the world, or the nature and behavior of human beings without a knowledge of religion.
©2004 C. David Hess