"Massachusetts is a ?blue state'; there's no room for God here!" -- William Shatner, playing Denny Crane, in "Boston Legal"
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Humor works because there's always a grain of truth in it. But there's nothing funny about the ongoing attacks on God when it comes to the personal faith of the president of the United States.
Michael Newdow, an atheist from the blue state of California who has made a name for himself by challenging any public utterance or mention of "God" as an affront to his constitutional rights, recently declared that there is no room for God in the rest of the country, either. Citing the "establishment of religion" clause of the First Amendment, he filed suit in federal court to prevent any mention of God in Thursday's inaugural ceremonies -- including the president's own personal remarks.
Rightly, the Supreme Court disagreed, and on Thursday, in his inaugural address, President Bush publicly asked God to bless this land and the hope of freedom we offer others. The antipathy Newdow and other non-believers feel toward the president began during the 2000 election campaign, when then-Gov. Bush was asked during a debate what "philosopher" had most influenced him. Bush's response: "Jesus Christ. He changed my heart. He changed my life."
Four years in the Oval Office haven't changed that perspective. A few days ago, President Bush, reflecting on the challenges he's had to face as chief executive, said he doesn't "see how you can be president, at least from my perspective, how you can be president without a relationship with the Lord."
It was enough to make atheists like Newdow race for the microphones and cameras. But rather than howling about the president's admission, they should have thanked whatever non-God-like entity they consider paramount that a man of faith like George W. Bush is our president.
It is precisely his "at least from my perspective" stipulation that separates George Bush from those who would impose their religion -- or lack of it -- on others by decree or the sword. In a recent interview with the editors of the Washington Times, Bush made it clear that "the job of the president is and must always be protecting the great right of people to worship or not worship as they see fit. That's what distinguishes us from the Taliban."
Far from establishing a state religion, as Newdow alleges, President Bush has clearly expressed precisely the opposite. This conviction of personal faith, balanced by a respect of each individual's right to worship -- or not -- according to his or her conscience, isn't unique to George W. Bush. In fact, it extends back 215 years to the foundation of our republic.
Oliver North is a nationally syndicated columnist, the host of War Stories on the Fox News Channel, the author of the new novel Heroes Proved and the co-founder of Freedom Alliance, an organization that provides college scholarships to the children of U.S. military personnel killed or permanently disabled in the line of duty. Join Oliver North in Israel by going to www.olivernorthisrael.com.