30 November 2008
Un-American Activities Remembered
Today's paper carried an obituary, which also appears here, for the man whose sermon in a Washington D.C. church with Dwight D. Eisenhower in attendance was considered instrumental in the movement to insert the words "under god" in the Pledge of Allegiance to the U.S. flag. This was an addition to a pledge composed back in 1892 to instill patriotism in schools on the occasion of the 400th anniversary of Columbus's voyage. The original author was himself a Baptist minister but saw no need to invoke the deity for his little ritual, intended originally as a onetime deal but adopted as a regular ceremony in schools. It became necessary during the McCarthy era, supposedly because it was necessary to contrast heretofore implicit American piety with godless Communism. The curious thing I learned from reading Rev. Docherty's obit is the extent to which his determination to have schoolchildren invoke God was based on his Scottish upbringing. The man was a foreigner, and from his own testimony, including God in the Pledge was essentially a foreign idea. More curiously, throughout this period there was a House Un-American Activities committee working alongside and prior to Sen. McCarthy's committee, but no member ever proposed investigating Docherty's demonstrably un-American activity. History, however, has the last laugh. Docherty was confident that God would let him see a hundred years. He was 97 when he died. I guess his faith wasn't strong enough.