First up from the God Machine this week is the latest controversy surrounding the Pledge of Allegiance, which some media personalities aren't handling well.
A lot of folks aren't aware of the backstory on the Pledge, so let's briefly recap. For generations, Americans cited an entirely secular Pledge that ended, "One nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all." That was the Pledge recited during both World Wars, for example. (Yes, the Greatest Generation turned out all right despite having a secular Pledge.)
Congress changed it in 1954 to spite godless communists. A family in suburban Boston has gone to court in the hopes of bringing back the original Pledge, arguing that under Massachusetts' Equal Rights Amendment, atheists are being treated unfairly.
The legal dispute hasn't been well received by all.
Freedom of belief doesn't appear to be important to Fox News host Dana Perino, who suggested that if atheists don't like having "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance, well, "they don't have to live here."Massachusetts' highest court is currently hearing a case against the Pledge brought by atheist parents, who feel that due to its religious wording, atheist children "are denied meaningful participation in this patriotic exercise." The case specifically involves the phrase, "under God," which was not actually a part of the original phrasing of the Pledge.Regarding atheists, Perino said during a live segment, "I'm tired of them."
Perino added that Americans who prefer the original Pledge should consider leaving the country. "If these people really don't like it, they don't have to live here," she concluded.
Co-host Bob Beckel agreed, saying, "Yeah, that's a good point."
It's really not. This notion that a religious minority should stop bothering a religious majority is, alas, not uncommon, but it's nevertheless offensive. A Jewish family might move into a Christian community, for example, where they might hear that if they're uncomfortable with the way Christianity permeates the public sphere, they don't have to live there.
But as a rule, whether one likes the original Pledge or the more religious version, telling Americans they shouldn't feel welcome in America because of their religious beliefs is never a "good point."
Also from the God Machine this week:
* Radical TV preacher Pat Robertson is sending his lawyers after two filmmakers "over their documentary depicting the televangelist's egregious misrepresentations of the activities of his charity, Operation Blessing." The film, "Mission Congo," is set to premier at the Toronto International Film Festival, and reportedly "depicts how Robertson diverted charitable activities to help mining projects that he owned and grossly exaggerated the work of Operation Blessing among Rwandan refugees."
* This house of worship is ironically called the Freedom House Church: "Churches often do their best to welcome new members and make new congregants feel welcome, but one North Carolina congregation caused a firestorm when a lead pastor requested 'only white people' serve as greeters."
* And Tony Perkins, the head of the Family Research Council, arguably the religious right movement's most powerful organization, argued this week that Congress should only authorize the use of force in Syria if Democrats agree to take away health care benefits from Americans. "If the President wants to expend resources in going into Syria, maybe you should have to choose between funding Obamacare and funding a war in Syria, can't do both," Perkins said.