George MacPherson Docherty

George MacPherson Docherty

George MacPherson Docherty (born 1911) was a principal instigator of the addition of the words "under God" to the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag of the United States.

Docherty was born in Scotland in 1911. After graduation from Glasgow University and a three-year pastorate at Aberdeen's North Kirk, he set sail from Southampton to the United States in 1950. Docherty succeeded Peter Marshall as the pastor of the historic New York Avenue Presbyterian Church in Washington D.C., just a few blocks from the White House. Abraham Lincoln routinely attended church there while president. It was customary for later presidents to attend New York Avenue Presbyterian Church on "Lincoln Sunday," the Sunday nearest Lincoln’s birthday, and sit in the pew that had been rented by Lincoln.

When President Dwight Eisenhower attended on Lincoln Sunday, February 7, 1954, Docherty preached a sermon calling for the addition of "under God" to the Pledge. As a result of his sermon, the next day President Eisenhower and his friends in Congress began to set the wheels in motion to amend the Pledge of Allegiance to include the phrase. On February 8, 1954, Representative Charles Oakman (R-Mich), introduced a bill to that effect. On Lincoln’s birthday four days later, Rep. Charles Oakman made the following speech on the floor of the House:

:"Last Sunday, the President of the United States and his family occupied the pew where Abraham Lincoln worshipped. The pastor, the Reverend George M. Docherty, suggested the change in our Pledge of Allegiance that I have offered [as a bill] ." :"Dr. Docherty delivered a wise sermon. He said that as a native of Scotland come to these shores he could appreciate the pledge as something more than a hollow verse taught to children for memory. I would like to quote from his words. He said:":"…there was something missing in the pledge, and that which was missing was the characteristic and definitive factor in the American way of life…

:

Senator Homer Ferguson, in his report to the Congress, March 10, 1954, said that "the introduction of this joint resolution was suggested to me by a sermon given recently by the Rev. George M. Docherty, of Washington, D.C., who is pastor of the church at which Lincoln worshipped." This time Congress concurred with the Oakman-Ferguson resolution, and Eisenhower opted to sign the bill into law appropriately on Flag Day (June 14, 1954). The fact that Eisenhower clearly had Docherty’s rationale in mind as he initiated and consummated this measure is apparent in a letter he wrote in August, 1954. Paraphrasing Docherty’s sermon, Eisenhower said:

:"These words [“under God”] will remind Americans that despite our great physical strength we must remain humble. They will help us to keep constantly in our minds and hearts the spiritual and moral principles which alone give dignity to man, and upon which our way of life is founded."

Docherty’s sermon was published by Harper & Bros. in New York in 1958 and President Eisenhower took the opportunity to write to Dr. Docherty with gratitude for the opportunity to once again read the fateful sermon.

Docherty continued at New York Avenue Presbyterian Church for 26 years. During that time he became active with Martin Luther King, Jr. in the civil rights movement. He developed relationships with later Presidents, as well as noted theologians such as Karl Barth and Billy Graham. For 22 years, Docherty had a television program in Washington, D.C. A book of his sermons entitled, "One Way of Living", was published by Harper in 1958, and his biography, "I’ve Seen the Day", was published by Eerdmans in 1984. His sermon collection is now in the stewardship of the Robert E. Speer Library at Princeton Theological Seminary. A collection of original recordings of his early sermons are now in the care of the Harvard Divinity Library in Cambridge.

After retiring from New York Avenue Presbyterian Church in 1976, Docherty and his family moved back to Scotland. In 1979, he was asked to join the faculty of Juniata College in Huntingdon, Pennsylvania for a year. Several years later he would return again to Alexandria, Pennsylvania, near Huntingdon, where he and his wife, Sue, continue to live today.

External links

* [http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn?pagename=article&node=&contentId=A30720-2002Jul5 "How 'Under God' Got in There," WASHINGTON POST]
* [http://www.phillyburbs.com/pb-dyn/news/103-02062004-241838.html Associated Press: "50 Years Ago, Sermon Spurred Putting 'Under God' in Pledge"]
* [http://www.post-gazette.com/nation/20020628undergod0628p3.asp "How the Pledge Got God," Pittsburgh Post-Gazette]
* [http://heritage.scotsman.com/people.cfm?id=1996652005 How a Scotsman Rewrote America's Pledge]
* [http://personal.pitnet.net/primarysources/docherty.html "A New Birth of Freedom," Docherty's sermon, heard by Eisenhower, which led to the amendment of the Pledge]
* [http://www.nyapc.org/congregation/Sermon_Archives/?month=1954-02 Docherty's Sermon Manuscript, February 7, 1954]
* [http://www.post-gazette.com/nation/20020819pledge0819p1.asp Minister Reprises "Under God" Sermon]
* [http://tencommandmentsoncapitolhill.blogspot.com/2008/02/my-visit-with-living-saint.html Docherty a candidate for Medal of Freedom]


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