One Nation Under God:
A Christian Argument in Favor of Separation of Church and State
On June 14, 2004, the Supreme Court overturned a decision of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals which held that including the words “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. The Court failed, however, to make a ruling on the main issue, deciding instead that the atheist who brought the suit did not have standing to bring the issue before the courts.
One Nation Under God is an in-depth look at this and other legal challenges to the role of Christian symbols and expressions in American public life. In a short history of the writing and legal interpretation of the Establishment Clause, attention is given to both sides of the long-standing controversy over the intent of the amendment and the struggle to find a balance between the separation of church and state and the religious beliefs of the nation. A history of the Pledge is also given, along with the two previous cases where the Supreme Court has ruled on its constitutionality.
Ruth suggests that many Christians want to keep religion in our public life for the wrong reasons, such as fear of losing our freedoms, national pride, and our own comfort. In fact, we may want to be a Christian nation more for our sake than for God’s. Comparing God’s covenant with the nation of Israel and his New Testament covenant with the people of his Church, it is clear that God has not called the United States to be a Christian nation. While Israel was called to obey God’s law in return for his promise to keep them safe in their homeland, the calling of the Church is to spread the gospel of Christ to all the world, having been given the promise of eternal life in God’s kingdom. But like the Children of Israel who wanted to return to the safety of Egypt, many Christians want to return to the comfort of simple rules and the promise of material blessings in return for obedience.