Beliefnet
This story first ran on Beliefnet on June 27, 2002.

That a court would rule the Pledge of Allegiance as being unconstitutional because it contains the words `under G-d' is something that I might have expected, perhaps, when I lived in Europe. Everyone knows that religion is essentially dead in Western Europe. Even in Italy, ground zero of Catholicism, where I traveled last week to launch the Italian edition of Dating Secrets of the Ten Commandments, nearly all the authors I met told me that they were atheists. In Italy there is no scandal concerning pedophile priests because the populace cannot summon enough passion for their own Catholicism to even profess outrage.

But the secret to the United States that so many others just don't understand is that it is a deeply religious country. If you miss the fact that faith is almost endemic in the American mindset, then you have missed the country completely. That's what Paul Johnson so insightfully captured in History of the American People, in which he shows that America's unparalleled expansion had everything to do with a religious fervor never seen in the annals of the world. Just look at concepts like "manifest destiny" where virtually every American leader believed that this country was destined to expand to the Pacific. Johnson even maintains that this irrepressible American faith was even brought to bear on American marketing, to wit, Coca Cola being plugged as "the real thing."

More importantly, of course, it served as the basis for Jefferson's pronouncement in the Declaration of Independence that no man need be subservient to a despot like George III since "all men are created equal.they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights." The belief in G-d is also what inspired so many righteous Christians to become abolitionists and to undo the subversion of that hallowed principle of freedom by the evil of slavery.

When I served as rabbi of Oxford University for eleven years, I found myself constantly on the defensive about religion. If people liked me, they told that they did so despite the fact that I was a rabbi. Indeed, several of the chaplains of the Oxford Colleges were, unbelievably, staunch atheists. But I have discovered that here in the United States my non-Jewish friends expect me to be a rabbi and to offer them Jewish wisdom. It's the part of me they enjoy the most.

And that's what is so special about the United States. G-d's presence in this country is all-pervasive and is not something that any judge can bang his gavel about and beat from our breast. From "In G-d we trust," which is enshrined on the coin of the realm, to our most beloved songs like "G-d bless America," G-d can be no more purged from the fabric of this country than can the Bald Eagle or the Stars and Stripes. To be sure, our founding fathers were emphatic about the need to separate Church and State, and rightly and prophetically enshrined it into our Constitution. But their intention was to ensure that religion never become oppressive, rather than to purge all religion from the American soul.

No man can foist his faith on another in this country. But conversely, no man can stop another man from embracing faith.

Not long ago I saw the much-quoted statistic that approximately 90 percent of Americans claim to believe in G-d, and more than half claim to pray every day. It seems then, that the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has been judged by a jury of their peers and have been found guilty of gross ignorance of the American heart. I therefore wish to appeal their ruling and reestablish the centrality of spiritual conviction as the foundation of the American republic.

Having lived in Europe where G-d was buried by Nietzsche over a century ago and is entombed today in the crusty remnants of state religions, I declare today how proud I am to be an American. And I teach my children proudly, all of whom bar one were born in the UK, to recite the Pledge of Allegiance. Indeed, what an amazing country we are. One nation, UNDER G-D, with liberty and justice for all.

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