I’ll be the first to admit, I did not watch the U.S. Open. I’m still of the mind that golfers should run after the ball after hitting it, but I digress. What I took away from the 2011 U.S. Open is the same as most people who heard about it second-hand: NBC omitted “Under God” in their video montage of patriotism and golf, then “apologized” for offending anyone. This has sparked another national discussion about religion and government and how that all comes to a head in elementary school classrooms all over these United States.
I understand that NBC is a private company and it can choose to omit anything it wants. The First Amendment allows NBC to go against the U.S. Code for this limited purpose. However, I do not fault anyone for saying something about that omission, as I would be wholly offended if NBC decided to picture the Star Spangled Banner upside-down or fallen to the ground. This is not about religion so much as respect and actual love of country.
Whether one likes it or not, religion – more specifically Christianity – was a keystone in the building of the United States.* We learn from American History, Day 1, that the Puritans and pilgrims came to the New World to escape religious persecution and to practice their religion in peace. By the American Revolution, the government of the colonies supported the Church and “official” state religions were still around until the mid-1800s. The religious overtones and under-currents of the United States are part of our history. Not to be ignored or forgotten, but praised and revered. If it were not for the courageous men and women who fought for their right to believe and practice as they pleased, we would not be having this discussion at all. Think about it – if we lost the American Revolution, we would be essentially dealing with the Church of England, like, you know, Canada. We are doing a disservice by not acknowledging that (1) this country was founded with religion in mind, and (2) most people here are still religious!
I am not saying anything that hasn’t been said before. But riddle me this…
Nearly 23 million Americans watched the royal wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge on 11 networks, including NBC. The ceremony included hymns, prayers, sermons, Bible readings, and (oh, look) more prayers. I, certainly, felt like I was watching a church service – because it was. Broadcasting this, obviously, was not a worry for NBC.
“But that’s different” says some hypothetical other person that is not merely a voice in my head to further this post, “That is another country; we’re not concerned about their religion. Here in the U.S. of A, we have separation of church and state.” To which, inevitably, I reply: “So, what you’re saying is context matters.” It’s okay if religion happens in the context of happening somewhere else, just not here. So NBC can muster enough tolerance to air a religious ceremony of a future monarch (whose power, as they say, stems from God!) of a country we broke away from on this very issue, but not enough to tolerate two words of codified U.S. law and purposefully editing it out.
My first reaction upon hearing about NBC’s omission wasn’t offense, more just an eye-roll. What bothers me, in a there’s-something-stuck-between-my-teeth way, is the distancing away from our history and national identity, all because someone does not want to hear the word “God.” Well, tough. I rather hear all words of all religions in tongues in a cacophony of worship than to hear none at all, because it means that my inalienable rights are still in effect. And so are yours.
* There are many, many, many, many books and analyses regarding the religious beliefs of the individual Founding Fathers. Though influential, the beliefs of Thomas Jefferson and James Madison did not enact the Constitution – the legislatures of the States were in charge of that.