President Obama twice in recent days has dropped from a quotation from the Declaration of Independence a reference to the "Creator," and now a columnist at First Things has documented how a self-described "leading progressive legal organization" has dropped "under God" from the Gettysburg address.
WND reported on the first incident, Sept. 15, when Obama told a meeting of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus that the document states, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, endowed with certain inalienable rights: life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."
But the actual quotation is:
"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."
The video, where the reference appears shortly past the 22-minute mark:
CNS News reported Sept. 22 when Obama, speaking to a fundraiser for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, did it again.
"If we stay true to our values," the president said, "if we believe that all people are created equal and everybody is endowed with certain inalienable rights and we're going to make those words live, and we're going to give everybody opportunity, everybody a ladder into the middle class, every child able to go as far as their dreams will take them – if we stay true to that, then we're going to be able to maintain the energy and the focus, the fight, the gumption to get stuff done."
Now comes word from Robert George, the McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence at Princeton, writing in the August/September edition of First Things, which is run by the Institute on Religion and Public Life, a nonpartisan research and education institute designed to "advance a religiously informed public philosophy."
He wrote of attending a conference where the American Constitution Society for Law and Policy was distributing copies of a pamphlet with the Declaration of Independence, the Gettysburg Address and the Constitution. George noted that the society's board members include former New York Times Supreme Court reporter Linda Greenhouse, controversial Obama judicial nominee Goodwin Liu and former attorney general Janet Reno. "How nice, I thought.
Here is a convenient, pocket-sized version of our fundamental documents, including Lincoln's great oration at Gettysburg on republican government," George wrote. He described how, since he had memorized the Gettysburg address in school, he started reciting it, then stumbled on the final paragraph, so he opened the booklet and read: "It is rather for us, the living, we here be dedicated to the great task remaining before us – that, from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they here, gave the last full measure of devotion – that we here highly resolve these dead shall not have died in vain; that this nation shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people by the people and for the people shall not perish from the earth." Wrote George,
"Deeply moving – but…"
"Did you notice what had been omitted? What's missing is Lincoln's description of the United States as a nation under God. What Lincoln actually said at Gettysburg was: 'That this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom." He noted the "progressive" group, which has featured speakers including Al Gore, Joe Biden, Ted Kennedy, Barney Frank, Jesse Jackson, John Edwards, Gary Hart, Janet Reno and Eric Holder, must have found Lincoln's quotation "a little inconvenient."
"In assembling their pamphlet they were eager to include Lincoln as a founder – the author of one of America's founding documents, the Gettysburg Address. But the Great Emancipator's characterization of the United States as a nation under God appears to undermine the strict separationism that the American Constitution Society wishes to promote."
He said it is apparent that the omission was noted, since "the version of the pamphlet now available as a PDF download on the American Constitution Society's website has been amended to introduce the words 'The Hay Draft.'" That is one of several documents containing parts or all of Lincoln's address, he explained. Of the five historical records, three contain the words "under God" and two, including the Hay Draft, do not.But George called the addition of the reference a "tail-covering maneuver." And he described the Hay draft as having "the greatest number of deviations from the other drafts and from what Lincoln is known to have said at Gettysburg."
"Three entirely independent reporters, including a reporter for the Associated Press, telegraphed their transcriptions of Lincoln's remarks to their editors immediately after the president spoke.
All three transcriptions include the words 'under God,' and no contemporaneous report omits them," George wrote. "There isn't really room for equivocation or evasion: Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address – one of the founding texts of the American republic – expressly characterizes the United States as a nation under God." Caroline Fredrickson, the executive director of the ACS, posted a response that called George's concerns a "calculated distraction." "At a time when many conservative pundits and policymakers can only try to distract from the administration's efforts to address real problems, it is perhaps not surprising that some would try to refocus attention on such peripheral issues," she said. She described the concerns as "hysteria."
But George noted, "The omission of the words 'under God' in a document characterized as a founding text by a liberal legal advocacy organization in the context of our contemporary debates over the role of religion in American public life and the meaning of the Constitution's provisions pertaining to religion is just too convenient. We now have positive evidence that they know exactly what they are doing, and, to achieve the result they want, they are willing to violate scholarly consensus, common sense, and the memorization of generations of schoolchildren."