“I believe that Muslims have the same right to practice their religion as everyone else in this country,” Barack Obama said on Friday, adding his own controversial opinion to a current debate in society about a mosque at Ground Zero, “and that includes the right to build a place of worship and a community center on private property in Lower Manhattan.” In the process, Obama showed that his conduct in government lacks common sense and is out of touch with American expectations that presidential policy effect safety and happiness relevant to the establishment and exercise of religion in the United States.1
Visiting Rhode Island 220 years ago today, President George Washington wrote to the local Hebrew Congregation. “May the children of the stock of Abraham, who dwell in this land, continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other inhabitants,” said Washington, borrowing a quote from the book of Micah to convey his vision of a utopian future for the United States, “While every one shall sit in safety under his own vine and fig tree.” 2
The term “under God” was first made famous by President Abraham Lincoln in the Gettysburg Address. Rarely mentioned again for nearly a century, “God” returned to prominence in American rhetoric following World War II, when President Harry Truman used the word frequently at the start of the Cold War. President Dwight Eisenhower followed, supporting the American Legion’s “Back to God” program in a political era that included Congress adding “In God We Trust” to American money and “under God” to the pledge of allegiance in opposition to a godless, communist threat.3
The 1943 Supreme Court case of West Virginia v. Barnette, ruling that the state did not have the power to force anybody to salute and pledge allegiance to the flag, established a legal precedent for more recent arguments against the pledge of allegiance, an entirely symbolic act that nonetheless continues to be challenged in the American judiciary system. “In the United States, a willed allegiance is required only of immigrants seeking to become citizens,” says Stephen Carter, a professor at Yale Law School, describing the mandatory Oath of Allegiance recited by nearly every naturalized citizen to the United States and that culminates with the phrase “so help me God.” 4
“They raised their right hands and repeated the oath of citizenship,” an article in The New York Times said, chronicling the naturalization process for a group of new Americans, who on April 17, 2009 completed the final requirement for citizenship. “One man in the group was the Pakistani-born Faisal Shahzad.” In June 2010, Shahzad admitted to being a member of the Taliban and pleaded guilty to attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction in New York City’s Times Square. “I want to plead guilty,” Shahzad said, “and I’m going to plead guilty 100 times over.” 5
The Documentary Hypothesis for the canon of the Hebrew Bible – the source of Old Testament literature in Christianity – is a theory in biblical scholarship based on the extensive use of doublets, the same story told twice in the Bible. But of greater relevance to preserving, protecting, and defending the U.S. Constitution than the Judeo-Christian scriptures beginning with two different creation stories and proceeding with similar doublets in stories such as those for Noah’s ark and the stock of Abraham, is a fact highlighted by Professor Richard Friedman, who teaches Hebrew and comparative literature at the University of California in San Diego. “In most cases one of the two versions of a doublet story would refer to the deity by the divine name, Yahweh (formerly mispronounced Jehovah),” says Friedman, “and the other version of the story would refer to the deity simply as ‘God’.” 6
The American people responded appropriately to a communist threat in the Cold War that ended when the Berlin Wall fell under the administration of President George Bush. In order to succeed in defeating the diabolical schemes of Islamic terrorists, Congress must judge it as necessary and expedient to reconsider the oral contract naturalized citizens to the United States are assumed to recite in good faith. American descendants of the Judeo-Christian tradition have nothing to fear and would in fact form a more perfect union by permitting all citizens to choose the spiritual comfort of their own proverbial vine and fig trees, eliminating the final phrase in the Oath of Allegiance with confidence in the universalistic verse that immediately follows the scripture quoted by President Washington:
Though all the peoples walk each in the names of its gods, we will walk in the name of the LORD our God forever and ever.7
Long live the American spirit. Long live the United States of America.
1. Barack Obama, “Remarks by the President at Iftar Dinner,” The White House, http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2010/08/13/remarks-president-iftar-dinner-0.
2. George Washington, Writings (New York: Library of America, 1997), 767. Adele Berlin, Marc Zvi Brettler, and Michael Fishbane, eds., The Jewish Study Bible: Featuring The Jewish Publication Society TANAKH Translation (New York: Oxford University Press, 2003), 1211.
3. Richard J. Ellis, To the Flag: The Unlikely History of the Pledge of Allegiance (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2005), 124-137.
4. Ibid., 110-111. Stephen L. Carter, The Dissent of the Governed: A Meditation on Law, Religion, and Loyalty (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1998), 13.
5. James Barron and Michael S. Schmidt, “A Suburban Father Who Gave No Warning Sign,“ The New York Times, May 5, 2010, Metropolitan Desk. Benjamin Weiser, “A Guilty Plea in Plot to Bomb Times Square” The New York Times, June 22, 2010, Metropolitan Desk.
6. Richard Elliot Friedman, Who Wrote the Bible? (New York: HarperCollins, 1987), 22.
7. Berlin and Brettler, The Jewish Study Bible, 1211.