Christian Group Pushes for God on World War II Memorial

By Nathan Burchfiel | July 7, 2008 | 8:21 PM EDT


(CNSNews.com) - A campaign is underway to have God represented on the new World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C. "In this beautiful memorial ... there is not one reference to God, not one reference to prayer, not one reference to faith, not one reference to religion," Rev. Patrick Mahoney of the Christian Defense Coalition said this week in launching the national effort.

"I do not think that we are stretching history to say that one of the critical factors in winning the war against Germany and Japan was the collective faith of our people and our leaders," Mahoney said.

The American Battle Monuments Commission (AMBC) issued a response on behalf of the National Park Service that stated, "We are proud of how the memorial honors the unity, courage and sacrifice of the American people during the Second World War."

Mahoney said he finds it troubling that none of the quotations inscribed on the walls of the memorial mention God, faith, prayer or religion despite the fact that the speeches from which the quotations were pulled did contain frequent religious references.

According to the ABMC release, "The inclusion or exclusion of religious references was never an issue, nor was it ever discussed."

Rob Boston of American United for Separation of Church and State said he doubted "there was some kind of conspiracy to slight religion."

Mahoney said he was willing to give the designers of the World War II Memorial "the benefit of the doubt" regarding any intentional exclusion of religious references. But such references to faith and God do exist in the Lincoln Memorial, the Washington Monument and the Jefferson Memorial, prompting Mahoney to wonder whether "we are seeing a rewriting of American history" with the most recent project.

However, "a war memorial must include everyone who fought in the war," Boston said, and references to God might divide Americans along religious lines.

As part of the group's demonstration, Mahoney left posters at the memorial highlighting the references to God and faith contained in the speeches that are cited on the monument.

He also announced the group's plan to lobby the World War II Memorial committee and the National Park Service to add a plaque at the memorial recognizing God's influence on warring nations.

The proposed plaque features a quotation from Gen. Douglas MacArthur that reads, "Let us pray that peace be now restored to the world and that God will preserve it always."

Mahoney said his group will not rest "until we see this quote here at the World War II Memorial." However, the response from ABMC isn't encouraging.

"The values and principles upon which our nation was founded are appropriately reflected within the World War II Memorial," the commission's release stated. "The memorial is complete - it needs no additions."

Mahoney said he believes the united faith of Americans cannot be overstated in terms of how it helped win World War II. The memorial, he added, also needs to include the religious references that American leaders invoked during the World War II era

Asked if the reference to God would offend some visitors, Mahoney said, "I don't know who could possibly ... be upset by it."

"This is an historical fact," he said. "This is not a group of evangelical Christians or religious zealots trying to impose their will on memorials around the country. This is a call for a fair assessment of the role of faith and religion within the public square."

Quotations like the one uttered by MacArthur are in line with the other inscriptions on the World War II Memorial, according to Mahoney. "We're not putting a Bible verse up there. We're not putting a cross up there," he said.

Islamic and Jewish leaders also support his plan, according to Mahoney, who said he would seek their input in discussions with the National Park Service.

Retired Army 1st Lt. Frank Farrell, a World War II veteran visiting the memorial Tuesday, said he supports the group's efforts to have references to God included on the memorial. "Why should they change history?" he asked.

Farrell said part of the reason he visited the memorial today was to check out rumors he had heard from friends that Roosevelt's now famous "Day of Infamy" speech was edited to exclude "so help us God" from the speech.

It turns out that Roosevelt's speech inscribed on the memorial did not include a reference to God, but not because it was edited out of the excerpt. The portion of the speech taken for the memorial was similar to another part in which Roosevelt said, "So help us God." The similarities between the two sections of the speech have led many people to assume that the speech was edited.

Farrell's wife, Rose Mary, said she didn't buy the argument that a reference to God would offend some visitors. "Some guy sitting on his (posterior) in Washington decided, 'don't put God in, you'll offend somebody,'" she said. "But I want to know, who are they offending?"

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