Jewish World Review Oct. 11, 2001 / 24 Tishrei 5762
The reaction to the massacre of thousands of innocent Americans awakened long-dormant feelings and beliefs in the most unlikely of places. One of the most startling sights was that of hundreds of senators and representatives, Democrats and Republicans, standing on the Capitol steps singing "G-d Bless America." I could not suppress the fear that some lawyer from the American Civil Liberties Union would show up with a "cease and desist order" issued by some misguided judge.
A few days following the disaster, President Bush visited the World Trade Center site to praise and encourage workers who were desperately searching for survivors. He told them that "America today is on bended knee in prayer." I waited for a counter-demonstration to appear, led perhaps by the infamous "Reverend" Barry Lynn, who always seems to show up to protest every sign or manifestation of religion every time it rears its sacred head.
Responding to President George W. Bush's declaration of Sept. 14 as a National Day of Prayer and Remembrance, the entire leadership of all branches of government, including the members of the Supreme Court, attended a magnificent multi-faith religious service at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. In song and sermon, G-d was praised and His blessings solicited.
This call for prayer was not unlike that which happened on Thursday, June 28, 1787, when an aged Benjamin Franklin rose to deliver a speech to the Constitutional Convention, which was engaged in bitter debate over how each state would be represented in the new government.
Franklin said, "In this situation of this Assembly, groping as it were in the dark to find political truth, and scarce able to distinguish it when presented to us, how has it happened, Sir, that we have not hitherto once thought of humbly applying to the Father of lights to illuminate our understanding?"
Franklin continued by reminding the delegates that "In the beginning of the contest with Great Britain, when we were sensible of danger, we had daily prayer in this room for Divine protection. Our prayers, Sir, were heard, and they were graciously answered. All of us who were engaged in the struggle must have observed frequent instances of a superintending Providence in our favor ... have we now forgotten that powerful Friend? Or do we imagine we no longer need His assistance?
"I have lived, Sir, a long time, and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth -- that G-d governs in the affairs of men."
As a result of Franklin's impassioned plea, and following a resolution by Edmund Jennings Randolph of Virginia, the entire Convention assembled in the Reformed Calvinistic Lutheran Church on July 4th, 1787, and heard a sermon by Rev. William Rogers. He prayed for G-d to favor the delegates "from day to day, with thy inspiring presence." He prayed for G-d to "be their wisdom and strength ... that the United States of America may form one example of a free and virtuous government ... "
What a monstrous irony that in this time of dire peril, as G-d hears prayers rising in a mighty chorus from across the nation, our children sit captive in government school classrooms where prayer is forbidden, G-d is ostracized, and religion is held in open contempt.
This cannot be viewed as a neutral position toward religion. Children understand that when something is banned, it must be wrong or dangerous. The spurious "separation of church and state" has evolved into a mandated separation of children and G-d.
It is more than irony. It is a heinous, schizophrenic assault on common sense. While a majority of Supreme Court justices apparently have no problem with flag-burning, anti-religious "art," illegal immigration, condom distribution in government schools, sodomy, public obscenity, pornography, or the exposure of children to sexual smut on prime-time television and the Internet, they are constitutionally offended by a school child's silent prayer, a Bible on the desk of a teacher, or the sound of children singing a Christmas carol in the classroom.
If the Founders of our nation sought G-d's help and inspiration as they fashioned the Constitution, and if the current leaders of our nation can freely and openly seek solace and blessings from G-d as our brave soldiers enter harm's way, by what contorted reasoning is this access to Him denied our children as they assemble in government
10/04/01: Breaking the nation out of a rhetorical cycle