This Week in God

First up from the God Machine this week is a heated conflict over NBC and the Pledge of Allegiance.

Apparently, as part of the network’s coverage of the U.S. Open Golf Championship last weekend, NBC edited out “under God, indivisible” during a taped piece of children reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. The criticism was swift enough that NBC issued an on-air apology soon after, during the golf coverage. A day later, NBCUniversal Sports issued a second apology from Chris McCloskey, its vice president of communications, acknowledging the mistake.

The Family Research Council, a powerful right-wing lobbying group, wants more than public apologies. In fact, the FRC wants NBC to make amends by airing the whole pledge, every day.

Now the [Family Research Council] is urging its members to contact NBC and demand the network play a public service announcement featuring the Pledge of Allegiance, in its entirety, daily.

“NBC must remedy this abuse by airing a series of public service announcement(s) with the entire Pledge of Allegiance,” read an e-mail blast sent Tuesday from council President Tony Perkins.

“Please join me in contacting NBC and demanding that the network air a daily public service announcement with the entire Pledge of Allegiance.”

NBC hasn’t responded to the new demands, but far-right Republicans have begun using the incident to rally religious right activists and the GOP base. Rep. Todd Akin (R-Mo.), currently a U.S. Senate candidate, talked to the Family Research Council yesterday, arguing that NBC removed “under God” because it’s a liberal news outlet and “at the heart of liberalism really is a hatred for God.” The right-wing lawmaker went on say NBC is trying to “tear the heart out of our country.”

For the record, the “under God” was added to the Pledge in 1954, and many of our parents and grandparents cited a secular Pledge when they were in school. Indeed, the Great Generation that overcame the Great Depression and won World War II said the pledge without “under God,” and managed to turn out all right anyway.

Also from the God Machine this week:

* A very strange argument from lawyers representing the Roman Catholic Church in one of its sexual abuses cases: “Attorneys for the Catholic Diocese of Belleville contend that if a jury verdict awarding $5 million to a former altar boy sexually abused by a priest is allowed to stand, the religious liberty of Illinois citizens could be undermined.” (thanks to R.P. for the tip)

* In Bahrain: “This year’s harsh crackdown on Shiite Muslims in Bahrain follows the playbook that Sunni Muslim-ruled Saudi Arabia used against Shiites in its own Eastern Province as recently as two years ago, secret State Department cables show. Some of the officials named in the cables as responsible for the 2009 Eastern Province crackdown now are advising Bahrain’s leaders.”

* Religious right groups are getting engaged in debt-reduction activism, to the point that they’re bearing false witness when it comes to Congressional Budget Office reports.

* And the authors of the “The Causes and Context of Sexual Abuse of Minors by Catholic Priests in the United States, 1950-2010” report — a.k.a., the “blame the hippies” study — feel like their work has been misunderstood.