Last updated on: 5/28/2009 | Author:

Charles C. Haynes, PhD Biography

Senior Scholar at the First Amendment Center
Not Clearly Pro or Con to the question "Should the Words “under God” Be in the US Pledge of Allegiance?"

“I’m in the camp that sees state prayers — and state religion in general — as antithetical to authentic faith. Consider the infamous ‘plastic reindeer test’ crafted by the Supreme Court in cases involving holiday displays. Governments, it seems, may include a crèche in the official display, as long as it is surrounded by enough reindeer, Santa, Frosty and other seasonal paraphernalia to render the baby Jesus a secular symbol.

Or consider the use of ‘God’ in the Pledge of Allegiance and on our currency. Various Supreme Court justices have opined over the years that such references to deity don’t violate the First Amendment because the expressions have been drained of their religious meaning and have become what Justice William Brennan called ‘ceremonial deism.’

State religion, in other words, is constitutional as long as it doesn’t mean anything religious. Why anyone of faith supports this arrangement is beyond me. Perhaps they believe that empty symbolism is better than none at all.

A better solution is to liberate religion to be authentic by taking the government out of the picture.”

“When Government Prays, Religion Loses,” First Amendment Center website, Aug. 3, 2008

Involvement and Affiliations:
  • Senior Scholar, First Amendment Center
  • Founding Board Member, Character Education Partnership
  • Columnist, “Inside the First Amendment,” First Amendment Center website
  • Member, Steering Committee, Campaign for the Civic Mission of Schools
  • Member, Advisory Commission on Public Education, American Bar Association
  • Chair, Committee on Religious Liberty, National Council of Churches
  • Recipient, Virginia First Freedom Award, Council for America’s First Freedom, 2008
  • Former Executive Director, First Liberty Institute, George Mason University
  • PhD, Theological Studies, Emory University
  • MA, Religion and Education, Harvard Divinity School
  • His three pamphlets A Parent’s Guide to Religion in the Public Schools, A Teacher’s Guide to Religion in the Public Schools and Public Schools & Religious Communities were distributed by the US Department of Education to every public school in the country in Jan. 2000