by David Sisler

In a report released on July 6, federal investigators said John F. Kennedy, Jr.'s failure to maintain control of his plane at night was a result of spatial disorientation. They did not find any evidence of mechanical failure. The findings by the National Transportation Safety Board were announced nearly one year after the accident which killed Kennedy, his wife, and her sister.

NBC news, quoting, investigators said, "The words of the report were carefully chosen, not to use the phrase ‘pilot error,' out of respect for the Kennedy family and its place in American history.

With all due respects to the dead, and to the living, if I had flown that plane into the ocean, it would have been "pilot error." Because that pilot was JFK, Jr., even though the cause of the accident was "pilot error," we will not call it "pilot error."

Things are often not as they seem, or so it seems.

Another case in point: when is a quotation from the New Testament guilty of "establishment of religion" and a quotation from the Old Testament is not? For the answer, you will have to look to the state of Ohio and to the coins in your pocket.

In 1959 the Ohio state legislature adopted the phrase "With God all things are possible" as its official motto. All was well until 1996 when then-governor George Voinovich wanted to engrave the statement on a plaza at the Ohio statehouse. The ACLU hollered "separation" and before you could pick up a stone carver's tool, the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals said, "You may trust Him, but you ain't carving His name up there!" The reason the Buckeye motto is unconstitutional, you see, is because Jesus said it (Matthew 19:26).

Even though, as syndicated columnist Jeff Jacoby points out, Jesus may have been quoting from Job ("Then Job answered the Lord and said: I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be hindered" – Job 42:1-2), national expressions based on the Old Testament are not unconstitutional. Yet.

But remember, things are often not as they seem. Reach into your pocket or purse and pull out a coin. We are not concerned about whose likeness it bears or whether it should be rendered to government or deity, but note the four words, "In God We Trust." Those words from Psalm 56:11 (with one pronoun change) were ordered to be printed on U.S. coins in 1864 by President Abraham Lincoln and were made our national motto in 1956.

Clair Orr, chairman of the Colorado State Board of Education, said that the national motto should be posted in all Colorado schools, and by a 5-1 vote the Board agreed. Well, you know that just as certainly as your paper delivery person ignored the box you put up to receive the daily gazette, and threw last Sunday's paper under your car, this one will be challenged by the Antichristian Civil Liberties Union.

But because things are often not as they seem, there are many more challenges yet to be mounted before we finally remove the name of God, references to his writings, and ultimately any thought of following him from our national scene.

We never sing the last stanza of The Star Spangled Banner, but we will surely have to exorcize it from our national psyche because Francis Scott Key dared to "Praise the Pow'r that hath made and preserv'd us a nation!" And horror of horrors, Key declared, "And this be our motto: ‘In God is our trust!' And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave o'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!"

Take your hand off of your heart, and don't repeat after me, "I pledge allegiance to one nation, under God."

When a 1954 amendment added those dreaded words President Dwight D. Eisenhower said "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." Ike, compared to fighting the ACLU, the Nazis were using stone knives and bear skins.

And in the ultimate unveiling of things not as they seem, when the Supreme Court agrees to answer this constitutional challenge, the pronouncement, "God save the United States and this honorable court," will dare not greet the Justices as they sit.

The First Amendment prohibits the establishment of an official church. It does not banish all mention of God or religion from government. Or at least it does not until this current court finishes rewriting it.


Published in The Augusta Chronicle 7/15/2000

Copyright 2000 by David Sisler. All Rights Reserved.

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