God Goes on Trial in San Francisco

Deal W. Hudson
December 3, 2007

On December 4, Seamus Hasson, president of the Becket Fund, will argue on behalf of public school students who want to keep “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance.

Two years ago, the politically liberal Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals (San Francisco) struck down recitation of the Pledge because it contains “under God.” Judge Lawrence Karlton concluded that requiring students to utter the phrase “under God” constitutes an endorsement of religion.

The Becket Fund, a non-profit institute dedicated to religious liberty, represents the appeal of parents, students, and the Knights of Columbus who want the decision overturned. The Knights mounted a campaign in 1951 to add “God” to the pledge, but it was a Presbyterian minister, Rev. George Docherty, who convinced President Dwight D. Eisenhower to support the change in 1954.

The series of lawsuits leading to the recent banning of the Pledge was instigated by an atheist, Michael Newdow. Newdow, something of a contemporary of Madalyn Murray O’Hair, objected to his daughter being required to recite the “under God” portion of the Pledge.

As Hasson puts it, “Newdow’s position, in a nutshell, is that you can’t lawfully require students to recite ‘one nation under Krishna.'”

Hasson, in response, will argue that the American Founders, who evoked God regularly, stood in a long philosophical tradition that considered God as knowable by reason alone. In other words, he’ll argue that the God of the Pledge belongs to no particular religion – in fact, the God of the Pledge does not belong to faith at all. (The arguments are being taped by C-Span for broadcast at a later date.)

The God under which our nation exists is one of natural theology, a God knowable through reason reflecting on the contingency of finite existence. (Remember the five proofs for the existence of God from St. Thomas Aquinas?)

Hasson believes more is at stake than the tradition of the Pledge itself. “We have to protect the next generation’s concept of where our rights come from, as affirmed in the Declaration of Independence.” The defense of God in the Pledge is also a defense of inalienable rights – rights that cannot be taken away by the government because they are not conferred by the government (they come from God).

As Hasson will argue: The idea of limited government and inalienable rights are necessarily connected. Take away God and you take away inalienable rights; take away these rights and you remove the limits of the state over our lives.

Michael Newdow may object to his daughter being required to utter the phrase “under God,” but I will bet he would mind much more if her inalienable rights to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” were taken from her.

Newdow also wants to have the words “In God We Trust” removed from United States currency. In fact, his challenge is being argued on the same day, after the “under God” appeal.

If the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals finds in favor of Newdow, it is virtually certain the court will object to “In God We Trust” as well.

It is the tradition of the Catholic Church to regard God’s existence is demonstrable. The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches “Man’s faculties make him capable of coming to the knowledge of the existence of a personal God.” Nevertheless, it has become fashionable to dismiss proofs for the existence of God as “medieval” and “unscientific.”

One of the last philosophers to write a substantial work on proving God’s existence was Mortimer J. Adler who converted to Catholicism the year before he died. His How to Think About God was published in 1991 and is a good place to start for those who are interested in one way Aquinas’s proofs have been updated.

The argument being made by Seamus Hasson on December 4 may require more than the existence of a tradition, a history of proofs for the existence of God. It may require the witness of those who still knows how the ancient wisdom leads the mind from the sensual presence of finite things to conclude with certainty that a “creator,” an infinite God, must exist.

Dust off your Summa Theologica and get to work

By Deal Hudson

Deal W. Hudson was born November 20, 1949 in Denver, CO, to Emmie and Jack Hudson, both native Texans. Dr. Hudson had an older sister Ruth, and eventually, a younger sister, Elizabeth. Emmie Hudson, Ruth Hudson and Elizabeth Hudson now live in Houston, TX; Jack Hudson passed away some years ago. The late Jack Hudson was a captain for Braniff Airlines in Denver at the time of Dr. Hudson’s birth. Later the family moved to Kansas City when his father joined the Federal Aviation Agency. From Kansas City, the Hudson family moved to Minneapolis, then to Massapequa, NY, and finally to Alexandria, VA, where they first occupied a home overlooking the Potomac River adjacent to the Mount Vernon estate. After a year, the family moved to a home on Tarpon Lane a few houses up the street from the Yacht Haven boat docks. Dr. Hudson attended Mt. Vernon Elementary School from grades 4 to 6 and has a special gratitude for the teaching of Mr. Hoppe who first told him was a ‘smart lad.’ Having moved with his family to Fort Worth, TX in 1960, Dr. Hudson attended William Monnig Junior High and Arlington Heights HS. In high school, Dr. Hudson was captain of the golf team, editor of the literary magazine (Guerdon), and performed the role of Peter in the ‘The Diary of Anne Frank’ during his senior year. Dr. Hudson graduated cum laude with a major in philosophy from the University of Texas-Austin in 1971 where his undergraduate advisor was Prof. John Silber. His teachers at the University of Texas included Prof. Louis Mackey and Prof. Larry Caroline. Dr. Hudson minored in both classics and English literature. Dr. Hudson lived in Atlanta from 1974-1989, where he attended Emory University, receiving a Phd from the Graduate Institute for the LIberal Arts. He also taught philosophy at Mercer University in Atlanta from 1980-89. In 1989 Dr. Hudson and his family left Atlanta when he was hired to teach philosophy at Fordham University in the Bronx. Dr. Hudson taught at Fordham, and also part-time at New York University, from 1989 to 1994. Dr. Hudson first came to Atlanta in after graduation from Princeton Theological Seminary (PTS) with an M.Div. While at PTS, Dr. Hudson managed the Baptist Student Union at Princeton University and became its first director. Dr. Hudson also was licensed at a minister in the Southern Baptist Convention at Madison Baptist Church in Madison, NJ. Dr. Hudson’s primary area of study at PTS was the history of Christian doctrine which he pursued with Dr. Karlfried Froelich. In 1984 Dr. Hudson was received in the Catholic Church by Msgr. Richard Lopez, with the special permission of Archbishop Thomas A. Donnellan, at the chapel of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Cancer Home in Atlanta. Dr. Hudson has been married twenty-five years to Theresa Carver Hudson and they have two children, Hannah Clare, 23, and Cyprian Joseph (Chip), 15, adopted from Romania when he was three years old. The Hudson family has lived in Fairfax, VA for more than fifteen years, after having lived five years in Bronxville, NY and a year in Atlanta, GA, where Theresa and Deal were married.

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