I take issue with the recent Maine Compass column, “We should all respect our anthem” (Sept. 9). On the surface the article was laughable, but read a little deeper and you find the disturbing values expressed are exactly what is wrong with America. An online comment exposed the column’s disturbing values very well: “Despite references to the importance of ‘personal freedom,’ unless actions meet a certain narrow prescription, they are demonized as inadequate and the basis of many ills.”

One of those disturbing opinions is that the national anthem expresses who we are as Americans and shows our sacred respect for all who gave their lives on our battlefields to defend a democratic society.

“The Star-Spangled Banner,” written by Francis Scott Key during the War of 1812, referred to America as the “Land of the Free and Home of the Brave.”

Those are lofty sentiments, but the reality is that during the War of 1812, American slaves were doing all they could to be captured by the British. The slaves knew they were more likely to be treated fairly by the British than they were by Americans. Apparently Americans forgot to respect all the black soldiers who gave their lives on our Revolutionary War battlefields to create a democratic society in the first place.

Those who protested making “The Star-Spangled Banner” our national anthem in 1931 did so because they objected to calling America the “Land of the Free and Home of the Brave” and had long referred to America as “Land of the Free and Home of the Oppressed.” They also protested because they opposed the values of its author, who said Africans are “a distinct and inferior race of people, which all experience proves to be the greatest evil that afflicts a community.”

Today many sports figures protest during the singing of the anthem to remind us that America has not yet lived up to the values expressed in either the Constitution or the anthem. For more than 200 years the anthem has claimed to express who we are as Americans, but Americans still deny minorities their full citizenship. This is clearly expressed by a president who openly supported racists at the white supremacists rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. No, the national anthem does not truly express who we are as Americans.


The column also admonished us to honor the Pledge of Allegiance “with liberty and justice for all.” I agree, just so long as “all” means everyone. Liberty and justice for all means any woman who wants an abortion should be able to get one and any same-sex couple who want to get married should be able to do so without restrictive laws and social stigma.

The author claimed that prayer will end bigotry, hate, violence and racism, and quoted President Abraham Lincoln to support that position. Lincoln also said, “Both read the same Bible, and pray to the same God; and each invokes His aid against the other” and, “God cannot be for and against the same thing at the same time.” The South prayed to the same god the North prayed to, but asked to continue a system of slavery based on bigotry, hate and violence.

The column went on to say that we need to pray for our government to heal some of our flaws and injustices by creating a fair and affordable health care plan, more and better-paying jobs for all our citizens, laws that protect all our people equally, and “respect for life in all its stages.” The last part is a thinly veiled anti-abortion statement.

The four goals outlined above are attainable, but there is the rub — how do we attain them? Many will pray that our government attain the above goals by repealing Obamacare, building a border wall, deporting immigrant children, ending same-sex marriages and reversing Roe v. Wade.

Many others, who pray to the same God, will pray for universal health care, amnesty to immigrant children who know no other country, strengthening same-sex marriage laws, and making a woman’s ability to choose a constitutional right.

So tell me, given that “God cannot be for and against the same thing at the same time” and that people on both sides pray to the same god but ask for very different outcomes, how is prayer going to solve anything?

Tom Waddell is president of the Maine chapter of the Freedom From Religion Foundation.

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