NBC has continued to ignore inquiries as to why or how the pledge was edited. NBC, which broadcasts on the public airwaves, has also refused to make amends for its disrespect of the pledge and the tens of thousands of Americans who have served our nation in uniform.
The Pledge of Allegiance is based on an act of Congress. In 1954, that act was amended to include the words “under God.” President Eisenhower strongly supported the legislative change, one that had been promoted vigorously by the Catholic men’s group, the Knights of Columbus. The words are not accidental. They are most intentional.
When NBC executives chose to edit out “under God” from a broadcast version of children saying the pledge, they were doubtless thinking Americans would not notice.
Unfortunately, the good of that film clip was severely undermined by NBC’s show of disrespect for millions of Americans by censoring out the reference to our being “one nation under God.”
Tampering with the Pledge of Allegiance is not a matter of mere indifference to religion. It’s an in-your-eye act of hostility to the 89 percent of Americans who believe in God, and the 93 percent of Americans who believe “under God” should stay in the pledge. That’s a lot of folks to stiff-arm.
Those two words pack a world of meaning. In an important 2003 article in The Weekly Standard, scholar James Piereson found the origins of the phrase “under God” in George Washington’s General Order to the Continental Army in July 1776. That was the week when the Continental Congress met to declare American Independence. His Excellency wrote:
“The time is now near at hand which must probably determine whether Americans are to be freemen or slaves. ... The fate of unborn millions will now depend, under God, on the courage and conduct of this army.”
President Lincoln used Washington’s words when he spoke at Gettysburg in 1863. He said “this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom.” Those words are engraved in stone at the Lincoln Memorial. They appear amid the graves at that hallowed ground. Millions of schoolchildren used to memorize that immortal address.
Those children, now grown, instantly recognize NBC’s crude attempt at a Soviet-style cutting out of the reference to God in the pledge. Doubtless hundreds of them called in to protest, even before the censored video left the screen.
No one protested when John F. Kennedy said, in his great inaugural address, that “the rights of man come not from the generosity of the state, but from the hand of God.” JFK concluded his speech, saying: “Here on earth, God’s work must truly be our own.” Liberals applauded then. So did conservatives. So did virtually every one. Talk about indivisible.
Thomas Jefferson expanded on the ideas offered by Washington and so many of the Founders, teaching us why the concept is so important. Our civil and religious liberties are based on Americans’ understanding that our rights are a gift of God.
Jefferson’s great words are carved in the wall of the Jefferson Memorial in Washington.
“And 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 of the gift of God? That they are not to be violated but with His wrath? Indeed, I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that His justice cannot sleep forever.”
Those who trash “under God” in the pledge are also teaching contempt for America’s rich heritage of religious and civil liberty. Is this the goal of the NBC executives?
NBC can demonstrate that it is not its goal to insult America’s Christian heritage and our nation’s traditions by airing a series on the Pledge of Allegiance as a public-service announcement.
Robert Morrison is senior fellow for policy studies at the Family Research Council.