Reviewed by Marshall Hughes
The Pledge by William J. Murray
"...a nearly 200 page read through the history of the words 'In God We Trust'...The sections written on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals should be read by all Americans."
Our constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is
wholly inadequate for the government of any other.
--John Quincy Adams, as quoted in The Pledge
It is no secret to anyone that there is a culture war going on in the United States. Not just a war of what American culture is to become, but a war of defining what our culture has been and where it came from.
The Pledge, by William J. Murray, is a nearly-200 page read through the history of the words “In God We Trust” being printed on U.S. money, which dates to 1694 in the colony of Carolina, and, more pertinent to the title of the book, the history of the words “Under God,” which has been a part of the Pledge of Allegiance since 1954.
In the 1950s The Knights of Columbus lobbied for the words “Under God” to be added to The Pledge in order to help American schoolchildren realize the vast differences between the American system of government and that of the Communist dictatorships of the world. One of the main tenants of Communism is that religion is the enemy of mankind and must be vanquished. “Religion is the opiate of the masses,” said Karl Marx.
The deciding factor in the adding of “Under God” happened on February 4, 1954 when 91-year-old Presbyterian minister Rev. George Doeherty gave a sermon on the topic, then later asked one of his parishioners if he enjoyed the sermon. That parishioner was President Dwight D. Eisenhower. Four months later Eisenhower signed the adding of “Under God” into law on Flag Day.
Of course, many people will think it ironic that the author of the book, who is chairman of the Religious Freedom Coalition in Washington D.C. and who is leading the fight for the adoption of the Pledge Protection Act (which would, protect the Pledge from ever having the words “Under God” removed from the Pledge) is named Murray.
Murray is, after all, the name of “The Most Hated Woman In America”.
(Time Magazine, 1964), “Madelyn Murray O’Hare”, who is largely recognized as the force which drove prayer out of American schools. William J. Murray is, in fact, the son of Madelyn Murray O’Hare on whose behalf the original lawsuit was filed which resulted in the Supreme Court ending the practice of public prayer in American schools.
While some parts of the book are a little dry, other parts will get your blood boiling. For example, the book discusses a litany of well-known people and/or groups who have declared war on Christianity, either in words or deeds, with names like Michael Newdow, the American Civil Liberties Union, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in general and Judge Stephen Reinhardt in specific, People for the American Way and, of course, Madelyn Murray O’Hare to name a few.
The sections in this book written on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals should be read by all Americans. It is fortunate that for now the U.S. has some sort of checks and balances. The Ninth Circuit, which has jurisdiction over 1.3 million square miles of America and 56 million Americans, had 27 out of 28 cases reviewed by the Supreme Court overturned in 1997. Between 1996 and 1999 some 86% of their cases were overturned by the Supreme court. Many of these were cases involving some sort of culture war or religious freedom issue.
It is almost one-quarter of the way through the book before the reader is introduced to any extent to the Pledge of Allegiance. Most of the first several chapters are spent covering early-American history and some of its Christian heros. Names such as John Locke, Jonathan Edwards, Roger Williams and William Blackstone are sprinkled throughout the first part of the book to set the stage for America’s founding.
The Pledge also has good histories on the starting of Harvard, Yale and Columbia as Christian schools, on The New England Primer (a textbook used in public and private school in America from 1690 to 1900 which reads like a Christian catechism), on how the ACLU collects millions of dollars suing whomever they can (and the judges who award them huge sums of money to do so) to get more money to sue Christian-friendly groups, and on the officially atheistic and Muslim countries of the 20th century who killed some 306 million people under their totalitarian regimes.
Murray goes light on criticism of his mother in the book, although he has been quoted other places as saying she stole millions of dollars from her organization, American Atheists, that she routinely cheated the IRS and that she had phony stock certificates printed to try to take over another atheistic publishing company. When she found out that her son had become a Christian, Murray O’Hare called it, “beyond human forgiveness.”
So where is America headed culturally?
Let’s hope it is not is the same direction as Canada, where, the book tells us, Mark Harding was convicted of a hate crime for handing out pamphlets on Islam and sentenced to do 340 hours of public service for an Islamic group. They spent much of the time trying to convert him to Islam under the threat of sending him to jail for failing to obey the court order if he did not follow their orders.
Let’s hope it’s not in the direction of Sweden where pastor Ake Green was taken to court for a hate crime. His offense? Quoting the Bible as it relates to homosexuals.
Let’s hope it’s not the direction currently taken by...America, where an elementary school teacher in New York was fired in 1998 for comforting her class after a classmate drowning with the politically incorrect, “He’s in heaven.”
This is not a book for everybody. If you want to revise or completely eliminate the influence of the Christian faith in the founding of America and if you think the ACLU and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which has declared the Pledge of Allegiance to be unconstitutional, are positive forces in America, then this book will not please you.
The battle over the words “under God” is just one part of the ongoing culture war in America. It is a war Americans cannot afford to lose.
Marshall Hughes is a former sports writer for the Honolulu Advertiser. For most of the past 22 years he has taught English in Japan. He has taught at the university level in America, Japan and China. Among his hobbies are sports, traveling and photography. He has been to 41 countries and is always hoping to go somewhere new. He is an award-winning photographer in both Japan and America. His bi-lines include The Washington Post, The Pacific Daily News (Guam), The Contra Costa Times and several sports publications.