President Dwight D. Eisenhower changed the Pledge of Allegiance to include the phrase "under God" in 1954.

Some three years later, I started going to kindergarten and saying the pledge each and every day.

I don't remember ever not saying "under God," but according to the wire stories, it was added to the Pledge when I was about eight, in the third grade.

Today, Judge Alfred Goodwin wrote an opinion for the three-judge appeals panel that ruled the Pledge unconstitutional.

Goodwin, it may be noted, was appointed by former President Richard Nixon to the appellate court. No doubt Nixon is spinning in his grave like a kid's top...

Here's what I'm curious about: Why does Judge Goodwin think the phrase "under God" indicates any particular imperative of belief on the part of the person reciting it?

He reasons that the phrase is as wrong — constitutionally — as saying under Allah, under Vishnu, under Krishna, under Zeus, or any other particularization of what President Eisenhower referred to as the almighty.

I would agree that any particularization of the concept of a supreme being would be offensive to some.

But the issue is: Why is the general concept of god offensive to those who don't believe — that small number of people in this country who are actual and real atheists?

Surely atheists realize they live in a nation of believers and that they are in the minority and always will be. Surely atheists are not trying to convert believers to their disbelief, are they?

What's the harm in stating the obvious? That most of this country believes in god — in some form, some way or another?

In fact, the person who brought this case and won — at least at the appellate level — is an atheist who was offended that his young daughter had to say words he didn't want her to believe.

Yes, I know we protect the rights of the minority in this country, but must we protect the rights of a minority — the estimated six to ten percent of Americans who are true atheists — when the rights of such a large majority must be brushed aside to do so?

Judge Goodwin sits in Portland, Oregon, but the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals is headquartered in San Francisco.

I spent 15 years living and working in San Francisco as a reporter, and this is the kind of decision I came to expect out of the Ninth circuit — a decision divorced from many of the realities of the rest of the country, as if the vast continent that separated a Western-most city from the rest was an ocean that commonality of thought could not cross.

I have one final question for the atheist who brought this suit. What are you going to do for money? You won't use that nasty stuff that says "In God We Trust"? Or are you going after that too?

Please. Let's make this dopiness stop dead in its tracks. God help us.

That's My Word.

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