Obama leaves out “by their Creator” from the Declaration. Does it matter?

Ken Blackwell Former Ohio Secretary of State
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It was certainly reassuring to see the President and First Lady coming out of St. John’s Episcopal Church last Sunday.  With all the confusion about the President’s religion, we can be sure that that very liberal historic parish will provide a warm welcome to the First Family.  And they’re unlikely to hear anything as unsettling as “God d____ America” coming from St. John’s elegantly carved pulpit.

Folk wisdom tells us there are no atheists in foxholes. President Obama has surely been feeling like a combat soldier in recent weeks.  With all the heavy criticisms raining down on him like incoming mortar shells, and with his own team members seeming to run away from him on the field of political combat, the President needs all the prayers he can get.  Cynics might say that this is another battlefield conversion, that Barack Obama never felt the need for such fellowship when he was above 70% in the polls.  In those halcyon days, Newsweek editor Evan Thomas was hailing Obama as “a sort of God.”  No more.

But just when you thought it was safe for a President to slip back into the pew, Barack Obama started a whole new round of speculation about what he really believes.  He was addressing the Congressional Hispanic Caucus last week.  He began to recite key passages of the Declaration of Independence when he slipped up.  Or did he?

He enumerated the “certain inalienable rights part” beautifully. He even listed the right to life.  Hmmm.  How does that comport with an ObamaCare law that, if not repealed, will subsidize abortion and thus deny the right to life to millions yet unborn?  Well, Barack Obama is hardly the only liberal who manages to declare such pesky questions “above my pay grade.”

The trouble came when Mr. Obama omitted “by their Creator” from his litany of endowed inalienable rights.  The White House is trying to tamp down any controversy.

The President was merely paraphrasing. Don’t try to read anything into this is the administration line.

But it does matter. The Weekly Standard’s Jeffrey Anderson certainly thinks it does:

On Friday evening, when President Obama addressed the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute, he quoted that passage as follows (on the clip at 22:30): “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal [pause], endowed with certain unalienable rights: life and liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” In Obama’s version, there is no “Creator.” Only two plausible explanations spring to mind.  One is that President Obama isn’t very familiar with the most famous passage in the document that founded this nation; that even when plainly reading from a teleprompter, he wasn’t able to quote it correctly.  The other is that President Obama doesn’t subscribe to the Declaration’s rather central claim that our rights come from our “Creator” (also referred to in the Declaration as “Nature’s God” and “the Supreme Judge of the World”). Only the president likely knows for certain which of these two explanations is true, or whether perhaps there is another.  His nearly 4-second pause before he omits reference to our Creator, however, is peculiar.  He stares at the teleprompter, purses his lips, blinks several times — as if confused, disturbed, and/or in the process of making a decision — and then proceeds to use his alternate wording.

Anderson had earlier reported on the Obama administration’s apparent discomfort with the Declaration of Independence. In its groveling and apologetic report to the UN Human Rights Council—a body graced by such respecters of the rights of humans as China, Russia, Saudi Arabia and Cuba—the Obama administration managed to omit any reference to the world’s greatest document on human rights—our own Declaration.

President Obama is not the only liberal to have such problems acknowledging the Creator.  Professor Robby George of Princeton trained his sharp eyes on a nice new publication from the American Constitution Society (ACS).  That’s a Federalist Society for liberals.  The ACS might be viewed as an incubator for the Obama Justice Department or even for Obama nominees to the federal courts.

Prof. George noted in First Things that the ACS has printed a little pamphlet with the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and—most welcome—Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address.  But when he carefully scanned Lincoln’s immortal words as delivered on that hallowed ground, Prof. George noted they had left out two—under God.

How bold! Surely, the liberals at ACS know that Lincoln’s words are carved into stone at the memorial that bears his name. Surely, some of them have been to the National Cemetery at Gettysburg and seen the speech text, once again engraved in stone.

We are left to conclude that for the liberal left, our rights do not come from God.  They come, instead, from government pronouncements, from UN documents, or from the courts.  This is a most disturbing conclusion. And it goes to the heart of who we are as a people.

Ken Blackwell is a visiting professor with Liberty University School of Law and senior fellow with the Family Research Council. He is the co-author of The Blueprint: Obama’s Plan to Subvert the Constitution and Build an Imperial Presidency.