- The Washington Times - Monday, July 8, 2002

KENNEBUNKPORT, Maine President Bush joined more than 100 parishioners at a seaside church yesterday in reciting the Pledge of Allegiance during services, a defiant dig at a recent San Francisco court ruling on the pledge's "under God" phrase.
In the middle of the morning service at St. Ann's Episcopal Church, Chaplain M.L. Agnew Jr. departed from the regular program and asked the congregation to stand and say the pledge to the U.S. flag.
The pledge has become a constant fixture of Mr. Bush's public appearances since a panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the phrase "under God" made public-school recitation of the Pledge unconstitutional.
He led children in the Pledge during a Fourth of July stop in Ripley, W.Va., in which the reciters all but shouted out "under God." Mr. Bush, who often talks of his faith in God and the role it plays in his stewardship of the country, has called the court's decision "ridiculous" and "out of step with the traditions and history of America."
The Pledge of Allegiance is not a part of any Episcopal liturgy, nor is its recitation a common custom, a church theologian told The Washington Times.
"It isn't at all normal," said the Rev. Kendall Harmon, canon theologian for the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina. "In a normal Episcopal Church liturgy for July 4, you find additional patriotic hymns, you find additional patriotic prayers, and a prayer for the country. But not the Pledge of Allegiance. And certainly not on the Sunday after the Fourth."
"The only exception: when a Cub Scout is given a God and Country Award during a church service. But I have never seen the pledge recited in my over 20 years in the Episcopal Church," said Mr. Harmon, who also is editor of the Anglican Digest.
A clergyman's sermon with President Eisenhower in the congregation led to the inclusion of the phrase "under God" in the pledge in the first place.
During the Korean War, there were moves in Congress to amend the Pledge to include the phrase "under God." But the resolutions were stalling until the Rev. George Docherty gave a sermon before Mr. Eisenhower at New York Avenue Presbyterian Church in 1954.
"I wrote a sermon to amend the Pledge of Allegiance," Mr. Docherty told The Washington Times last month, recalling that he had drawn inspiration from references to a deity in the ceremonial hymns of his native Scotland.
The sermon said: "Apart from the mention of the phrase 'the United States of America,' it could be the pledge of any republic." Then he added, "In fact, I could hear little Muscovites repeat a similar pledge to their hammer-and-sickle flag in Moscow."
Afterward, Mr. Docherty asked Mr. Eisenhower, who was in the front pew, what he thought. "And he said, 'I agree.'"
The news story flashed across the nation, and on June 8, 1954, just three days after the sermon, Congress passed a joint resolution calling for the words "under God" to be added. Mr. Eisenhower signed it into law on Flag Day, six days later.
Mr. Bush attended the services at the oceanside church with first lady Laura Bush, former President George Herbert Walker Bush and his wife, Barbara, sister Doro and National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice. Many family members have been spending the long holiday weekend at the Bush compound on Walker's Point.
The president did not stick around for the closing hymn, "America the Beautiful."
As the Bush family prepared to take Communion, Chaplain Agnew called Mr. Bush the "spiritual and political leader of the greatest nation in the world." Addressing family members of the political dynasty crowded in the front pew, the chaplain said: "What I honor about the Bush family simply is your priority of God's love for you."
The chaplain then told parishioners the Bush family would take the bread and wine and then leave to avoid distraction from the sacrament. "It's not that they don't love you," Mr. Agnew said.
Bishop Chilton R. Knudsen, the Episcopal bishop of Maine, opened her homily on the theme of God's message "you are My beloved child" by noting that the president's 56th birthday was Saturday.
"However many years we are carrying on our frames, we all are babes" in the eyes of God, she preached. Noting the pressures of the presidency, she delivered a sermon on how Jesus understands the burdens all people face and compared them to the yoke worn by oxen. Whatever your burden, whatever plowing you have to do, may your yoke be easy."
At the White House today, Mr. Bush planned to attend a Medal of Honor ceremony and finish work on the speech he gives tomorrow on Wall Street to address the scandals in corporate America and try to blunt their effect on the economy.
Once worship was done, Mr. Bush and his ex-president father quickly shed their "Sunday best" for casual wear and headed for their Fidelity II speedboat. With the current president's 20-year-old daughter, Jenna, on board, they blasted out to sea.
Julia Duin in Washington contributed to this article, which is based in part on wire service reports.


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