ACRU Senior Fellow Ken Blackwell wrote this column appearing September 21, 2010, on the World Magazine website.
It was certainly reassuring to see the president and first lady coming out of St. John’s Episcopal Church last Sunday. With all the confusion about the president’s religion, we can be sure that the very liberal historic parish will provide a warm welcome to the first family. And they’re unlikely to hear anything as unsettling as “God d____ America” coming from St. John’s elegantly carved pulpit.
Folk wisdom tells us there are no atheists in foxholes. President Obama has surely been feeling like a combat soldier in recent weeks. With all the heavy criticisms raining down on him like incoming mortar shells, and with his own team members seeming to run away from him on the political battlefield, the president needs all the prayers he can get. Cynics might say that this is another battlefield conversion, that Obama never felt the need for such fellowship when he was above 70 percent approval in the polls. In those halcyon days, Newsweek editor Evan Thomas was hailing Obama as “a sort of God.” No more.
But just when you thought it was safe for the president to slip back into the pew, he started a whole new round of speculation about what he really believes. While addressing the Congressional Hispanic Caucus last week, Obama began to recite key passages of the Declaration of Independence and slipped up. Or did he?
He enumerated the “certain inalienable rights” part beautifully. He even listed the right to life. (Hmmm. How does that comport with an Obamacare law that if unrepealed would subsidize abortion and thus deny the right to life to millions yet unborn? Well, Barack Obama is hardly the only liberal who manages to declare such pesky questions “above my pay grade.”) The trouble came when Obama omitted who endowed the people with these inalienable rights, “their Creator.”
The White House is trying to tamp down any controversy: The president was merely paraphrasing. “Don’t try to read anything into this” is the administration line.
But it does matter. The Weekly Standard’s Jeffrey Anderson certainly thinks so:
“Only two plausible explanations spring to mind. One is that President Obama isn’t very familiar with the most famous passage in the document that founded this nation; that even when plainly reading from a teleprompter, he wasn’t able to quote it correctly. The other is that President Obama doesn’t subscribe to the Declaration’s rather central claim that our rights come from our ‘Creator’ (also referred to in the Declaration as ‘Nature’s God’ and ‘the Supreme Judge of the World’).
“Only the president likely knows for certain which of these two explanations is true, or whether perhaps there is another. His nearly 4-second pause before he omits reference to our Creator, however, is peculiar. He stares at the teleprompter, purses his lips, blinks several times — as if confused, disturbed, and/or in the process of making a decision — and then proceeds to use his alternate wording.”
Anderson had earlier reported on the present administration’s apparent discomfort with the Declaration of Independence. In its groveling and apologetic report to the UN Human Rights Council–a body graced by such respecters of the rights of humans as China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, and Cuba–the Obama administration managed to omit any reference to the world’s greatest document on human rights: our own Declaration.
President Obama is not the only liberal to have such problems acknowledging the Creator. Take for example a nice new publication from the American Constitution Society for Law and Policy (ACS)–a Federalist Society for liberals that might be viewed as an incubator for the Obama Justice Department or even for Obama nominees to the federal courts.
Princeton Professor Robby George noted in First Things that he recently picked up a handy little pamphlet published by ACS with the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and–most welcome–Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. But when he carefully scanned Lincoln’s immortal words as delivered on that hallowed ground, Professor George noted they had left out two: “under God.”
How bold! Surely the liberals at ACS know that Lincoln’s words are carved into stone at the memorial that bears his name. Surely some of them have been to the National Cemetery at Gettysburg and seen the speech text, also engraved in stone.
We are left to conclude that for the liberal left, our rights do not come from God. They come, instead, from government pronouncements, from UN documents, or from the courts. This is a most disturbing conclusion. And it goes to the heart of who we are as a people.