Faith & Justice

The United States Open golf tournament – 111 years of history.  It’s America’s venerable and prestigious golf championship.  And, for the third time in its long history, the U.S. Open was held at Congressional Country Club, just outside the nation’s capital.

NBC televised the event, in conjunction with the United States Golf Association (USGA).  They spent a lot of time and resources chronicling the history and heritage of this great event.

But, when they broadcast a feature story designed to pay tribute to the nation itself, that’s where the problems began.

As school children recited the Pledge of Allegiance, NBC cut-out the phrase ‘under God’ – not once, but twice.  That’s right – the Pledge of Allegiance – edited – the phrase ‘under God’ blatantly left out.

The move instantly offended millions of Americans, as it should. Here’s the tribute, which includes the recitation of the Pledge without the phrase ‘under God’.

NBC tried to explain it away with a brief apology hours later. A commentator with NBC read this statement on the air: “We began our coverage of this final round just about three hours ago and when we did it was our intent to begin the coverage of this U.S. Open Championship with a feature that captured the patriotism of our national championship being held in our nation’s capital for the third time.

“Regrettably, a portion of the Pledge of Allegiance that was in that feature was edited out. It was not done to upset anyone and we’d like to apologize to those of you who were offended by it.”

Imagine, an apology that omits the very words that were edited out.  That’s right, even in the apology, NBC failed to use the words ‘under God’ – a phrase that apparently was still too controversial to mention on-air.

In an attempt to chronicle our nation’s history and heritage, how could you edit out the phrase ‘under God’ from the Pledge of Allegiance? 

This time-honored tradition has been a critical part of the Pledge for more than half a century. 

Congress added the phrase in 1954, passing a law, at the encouragement of then President Eisenhower, who stated at the time, “In this way we are reaffirming the transcendence of religious faith in America’s heritage and future; in this way we shall constantly strengthen those spiritual weapons which forever will be our country’s most powerful resource in peace and war.”  You can read the statute here.

This snafu involving NBC is just the latest assault on the Pledge.  We defend the Pledge in courtrooms across America from legal challenges by organizations like the Freedom From Religion Foundation and others.  In fact, just last week, there was an important important victory regarding the Pledge in a New Hampshire case.  More about that victory here.

Americans understand what’s taking place – whether it’s a direct legal challenge in the courts or an on-air snub during the broadcast of our national championship of golf.

The truth is, NBC would never have even attempted an on-air “apology” had this not touched off an online firestorm – with blogs, Twitter and Facebook.

NBC and the USGA treated the phrase ‘under God’ like a throw-away line, an afterthought. 

For many, that “apology” was too little, too late.  Thousands of Americans are standing with us in sending a Letter of Protest demanding that NBC put in place a policy that ensures when the Pledge airs, so do the words, ‘under God’.