IN GOD WE TRUST PASTOR BACK IN THE PULPIT
On Monday, August 19, 2002, Staff Writer Tom Gibb of
the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette published an interview with the
91-year-old minister whose sermon inspired the legislation
which put the motto "In God We Trust" on U.S. paper money
and in the Pledge of Allegiance..
"Huntingdon, Pa. -- Nobody would have faulted the Rev. George
Docherty had he begged out of donning his black
cassock and delivering a 25-minute sermon yesterday in a
sweltering, packed sanctuary. His best excuse: He's 91.
But he was born and raised a Scotsman. That's probably what
helped make him a stubborn 91-year-old.
"George is the proverbial race horse," friend Robert Stewart
said. "He always has a race left in him."
So, yesterday morning, before the 400-some people who
filled Huntingdon Presbyterian Church -- a multitude the
church doesn't see but for Easter and Christmas Eve -- this
regal, broad-shouldered Scotsman reprised his 1954 sermon
that helped to plug the phrase "under God" into the Pledge of
Back then, it was a sermon he delivered as pastor of the
landmark New York Avenue Presbyterian Church in
Washington, D.C. -- the powerful in attendance, President
Dwight Eisenhower in a front pew.
"To omit the words 'under God' is to omit the definitive
character of the American way of life," Docherty, a hale voice
with a hearty brogue, read.
"What the Declaration [of Independence] says, in effect, is
that no state church shall exist in this land. This is separation
of church and state. It is not and never was meant to be a
separation of religion and life."
Wire services carried accounts of what Eisenhower heard
in church that day, the sermon was copied into the
Congressional Record, and portions of the service turned up
on movie theater newsreels.
Sometimes, an intent congregation had to fish out words
hidden in Docherty's brogue or caught under the whoosh of
fans running at full bore just to keep room temperature near 80.
"But it was a wonderful sermon," said retired physician John
Hewlett, who drove from Hershey to hear friend Docherty.
In the aftermath, Docherty pronounced himself "a little tired,"
said he expects "under God" to remain in the pledge, but
allowed that, either way, he's probably made his last stand
in the pulpit.
For the full text of the article, see:
Wayne Homren, Editor
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