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Minister who inspired 'under God' dies

WASHINGTON, Nov. 30 (UPI) -- The Rev. George M. Docherty, who helped get the phrase "under God" into the U.S. Pledge of Allegiance, has died at the age of 97 in Pennsylvania.

Docherty died at his home in Alexandria on Thanksgiving Day, The Washington Post reported.

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As pastor of the New York Avenue Presbyterian Church in Washington, which had been President Abraham Lincoln's church, Docherty presided over the traditional Lincoln Sunday service attended by presidents on the Sunday closest to Lincoln's Birthday. In 1954, he urged adding "under God" to the pledge with President Dwight Eisenhower in the congregation.

"To omit the words 'under God' in the Pledge of Allegiance is to omit the definitive factor in the American way of life," Docherty said.

The idea did not originate with Docherty, but Eisenhower signed legislation four months after hearing the sermon.

Docherty, born in Scotland, was a minister in Glasgow and Aberdeen before coming to Washington in 1950.

He was also known as a social activist who supported civil rights and preached against the Vietnam War. On Lincoln Sunday in 1974, Docherty preached on the theme "Whatever happened to courage?" to a congregation that included President Richard Nixon and Watergate special prosecutor Leon Jaworski.

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