There is a reason behind the movement to
strike the words "under God" from the Pledge of
Allegiance - and from our national customs, and our currency,
and our public ceremonies. It has very little to do with
atheism. It has a great deal to do with authoritarianism.
The philosophy of the American Founding is unique among the
nations of the world because of a bedrock principle that was
given expression with words in the Declaration of Independence
that are old and familiar, and yet not often pondered these
In the American view, there is a certain group of rights that
are accorded absolutely and equally to every individual and that
cannot be alienated by others. The existence of these rights is
beyond debate - "self-evident" in the words of the
Founders. And their source is supreme - "the Creator."
"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..."
What are these rights? They are rights that exist as a condition
of human life itself. If an individual were alone in the world,
the rights he has are those rights the Founders traced to
"the laws of Nature and of Nature's God." In their
words, "...that among these are life, liberty, and the
pursuit of happiness." The right to the fruit of our own
labor, the right to express our own sentiments, the right to
defend ourselves, the right to live our lives according to our
own best lights - in a word, Freedom.
But how do we secure these rights in a world where others seek
to violate them? We form a government servient to these
God-given rights - or more precisely, a government under God.
"That to secure these rights, governments are instituted
among men..." In the American view, the only legitimate
exercise of force by one individual over another, or by a
government over its people, is in the defense of these natural
rights. This concept is the foundation of American liberty. And
because it defines limits to the powers of government, it is
supremely offensive to the radicals of the Left. They abhor the
words "under God" because these words stand in the way
of an all-powerful state.
The French and American revolutions were waged on precisely the
same declared rights of liberty and equality. One was a ghastly
failure that ended in the reign of terror; the other, a
magnificent success. Why? In the philosophy of the French
Revolution, the rights of man were defined by a governmental
committee and extended at the sufferance of that government. In
the American view, these rights come from God, their existence
is preeminent and their preservation is the principal object of
If the source of our fundamental rights is not God, then the
source becomes man - or more precisely, a government of men. And
rights that can be extended by government may also be withdrawn
by government. Words matter. Ideas matter. And symbols matter.
The public furor fomented by the Ninth Circuit Court over the
Pledge of Allegiance must not be devalued as a mere defense of
harmless deistic references and quaint old customs. The
principle at stake is central to the very foundation of the
American nation and the very survival of its freedoms.
Senator Tom McClintock represents the 19th
Senate District in the California Legislature. His website address
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