Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Pastor who helped get 'under God' in Pledge dies:

Died on Thanksgiving Day. He came from Scotland. Excerpts:
The Rev. George Docherty, credited with helping to push Congress to insert the phrase "under God" into the Pledge of Allegiance, has died at 97.

Docherty, then pastor of the New York Avenue Presbyterian Church in Washington, just blocks from the White House, gave a sermon in 1952 saying the pledge should acknowledge God.

He was born in Glasgow, Scotland, and was unfamiliar with the pledge until he heard it recited by his 7-year-old son, Garth.

"I didn't know that the Pledge of Allegiance was, and he recited it, 'one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all,"' he recalled in an interview with The Associated Press in 2004. "I came from Scotland, where we said 'God save our gracious queen,' 'God save our gracious king.' Here was the Pledge of Allegiance, and God wasn't in it at all."

There was little effect from that initial sermon, but he delivered it again on Feb. 7, 1954, after learning that President Dwight Eisenhower would be at the church.

The next day, Rep. Charles G. Oakman, R-Mich., introduced a bill to add the phrase "under God" to the pledge, and a companion bill was introduced in the Senate. Eisenhower signed the law on Flag Day that year.
More at the Washington Post: (emp add)
Without mentioning a deity, Rev. Docherty said, the pledge could just as easily apply to the communist Soviet Union: "I could hear little Muscovites recite a similar pledge to their hammer-and-sickle flag with equal solemnity."

Then as now, legal scholars questioned whether a reference to a deity in a patriotic pledge violated the First Amendment separation of church and state. In recent years, there have been several court challenges to the phrase.

But Rev. Docherty remained unmoved. The phrase "under God" could include "the great Jewish community and the people of the Muslim faith," in his view, but he drew the line at atheists.

"An atheistic American is a contradiction in terms," he said in his sermon. "If you deny the Christian ethic, you fall short of the American ideal of life."
Damn right. American atheists should be stripped of their citizenship.

A contrary view can be read here.

Of interest:
One reader [of the Post story] asked whether Rev. Docherty was a U.S. citizen when he urged the change to the Pledge of Allegiance that elicited such First Amendment controversy. No, he was not; he became a U.S. citizen in 1960.


I am reminded of my days at the Dearborn grade school (Roxbury section of Boston) in the late 1930s, early 1940s, at assemblies when "proclamations" from the MA Governor would be read by a student. Each "proclamation" ended with the words "God save the Commonwealth of Massachusetts." Each student reader would vary the emphasis in this, usually with a comma-like pause after "God" for dramatic effect. This made the assembly feel like church even though the substance of the "proclamation" had nothing to do with religion. As for "God," was she listening?

By Blogger Shag from Brookline, at 12/03/2008 4:02 AM  

The original pledge was written by Francis Bellamy, the brother of Edward Bellamy, author of the Socialist Utopian novel _Looking Backward_. Francis himself was a Christian Socialist.

By Blogger gmoke, at 12/03/2008 9:44 PM  

who was it who pointed out we used to win wars until god was inserted into the pledge?

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12/04/2008 2:44 PM  

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