Alanna Mustin, Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania delegate Kelly McGuire furiously wrote down closing statements for her proposal as a delegate gave the final con speech. McGuire’s proposal, “To remove ‘under God’ from the Pledge of Allegiance,” garnered a large amount of opposition from the other delegates in her committee.
“Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence, which states that we are endowed by our creator, which is most likely God,” an opposing delegate argued.
“As I see it, my creators are my mother and father, but that’s a discussion for another day,” McGuire rebutted as the gavel struck, announcing her two minutes were up.
Her proposal’s major con was reiterated multiple times: United States citizens do not have to say the pledge. This enraged McGuire, “I love my country, I’m proud of my country, but I don’t affiliate with God,” she stated, “one in five Americans now identify as having no religion; they’re now (one of) the fastest growing minority -we need to stick up for that minority.”
Hands flew up instantly to speak against McGuire’s proposal; however, Arizona delegate Pat Johnson’s proposal, “A Proposal to Empower a Secular America”, had a similar purpose, yet met barely any antagonism in comparison. Johnson also proposed replacing “In God We Trust” with “E Pluribus Unum” (Of Many, One) and eliminating vouchers for private religious education that are paid for by taxpayer dollars. Most delegates ignored the secular changes that would be implemented and, instead, focused on the vouchers aspect, which caused barely any major dispute.
One would think that with such similar topics the two would share views on religion, but that is not the case: McGuire does not affiliate with any religion while Johnson identifies as Catholic.
Of course, with approximately six hundred teenagers gathered in one place, there should be a multitude of different points of views on religion; however, the Blue Ridge Assembly was founded on a Christian ideals and values. Creator Dr. Willis D. Weatherford constructed the Assembly as an interdenominational Christian conference and training center and recruited workers with four basic principles: respect, honesty, responsibility, and caring. Some states have decided to add a fifth core value: faith. The Blue Ridge Assembly, however, has not made faith a fifth core value of its facility.
McGuire considers the core value “faith” to have different meanings than just believing in God. “Faith to me means believing in people and the future ahead of us rather than a higher deity,” she explained. Though she is not religious, one of her favorite parts of the Conference On National Affairs is the open minded and accepting blessings before each meal.
“I love how CONA tries to incorporate a lot of different faiths,” Johnson elucidated. “Of course, it has a Christian focus, though, since the YMCA is a Christian organization.” He feels like CONA is such a diverse place with so many different religions that some of the others should get some more focus as well.