The U.S. House of Representatives is playing political football with religion. Yesterday, in a 396 to 9 vote, the U.S. House approved Rep. J. Randy Forbes' pandering resolution "reaffirming 'In God We Trust' as the official motto of the United States and supporting and encouraging the public display of the national motto in all public buildings, public schools, and other government institutions." This is a repeat of a similar resolution passed in 2006, also a year when Republicans controlled the House.
Pious Rep. Forbes is founder and co-chair of the Congressional Prayer Caucus. He has previously tried to discredit our nation's first motto, "E Pluribus Unum" ("Out of Many, One"), claiming our nation's only motto is "In God We Trust." In fact, both are national mottos. "E Pluribus Unum," originally chosen by a distinguished committee of Benjamin Franklin, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, appears on the Great Seal of the United States and is still on currency. The religious motto was unfortunately adopted following a religious lobbying campaign during the Red Scare in 1956. (See more background on In God We (Don't) Trust.)
As FFRF always points out, "In God We Trust" isn't even accurate. In order for it to be accurate, it would have to say, "In God Some of Us Trust," and wouldn't that be silly? The vote is clearly political grandstanding. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., had formally announced he would work to prevent votes on any new legislation that is not "substantive and meaningful." As New York Times coverage pointed out, the House did not vote, for example, on a resolution that passed in the Senate honoring troops who carried out the mission killing Osama bin Laden. But it found plenty of time to schedule a vote on this "gotcha issue."
If your representative was one of the few brave "nays," please commend them. If they were among those masses of quivering jelly in the House with no backbone who enjoy wearing religion on their sleeves, let them know you do not appreciate this lack of representation of your views. The godly motto is exclusionary, divisive and unconstitutional. It turns you — the nonbeliever — into a political outsider. And it threatens your rights as parents or grandparents by encouraging public schools to force nonreligious children to pass by a godly motto every day in school. The resolution is reckless and encourages even more religious violations in public buildings and public schools.
The nine brave "naysayers" were:
Rep. Gary Ackerman, D-N.Y.
Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, D-Mo.
Rep. Justin Amash, R-Mich.
Rep. Judy Chu, D-Calif.
Rep. Mike Honda, D-Calif.
Rep. Hank Johnson, D-Ga.
Rep. Bobby Scott, D-Va.
Rep. Pete Stark. D-Calif.
Rep. Jerrold Nadler D-N.Y.
Answering present: Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn. (who, as one of two Muslims in Congress, appears to understand the importance of separation between state and religion), and Rep. Melvin Watt, D-N.C. (Check here to see whether your representative was among those who didn't vote and tell them you are disappointed they didn't show up to vote "NO."
The U.S. Constitution ensures no religious test for public office. Yet this resolution amounts to such a test for good citizenship. Although it can be dismissed as near-election-year pandering, the resolution is full of harmful Religious Right disinformation and encourages further abuses.
The second "Whereas" falsely says the "sentiment, 'In God We Trust,' has been an integral part of United States society since its founding." In fact, the motto was adopted as a johnny-come-lately. The founders of our nation wrote and adopted an entirely godless Constitution. They did not pray during the Constitutional Convention, and every reference to religion in the Constitution is exclusionary.
Other "whereases" pile up recent state/church entanglements as further justification to unite "God" with country. For example, one resolution states that "the oath taken by all Federal employees, except the President, states 'I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.' " Such religious oath-taking is wrong, and will be protested by FFRF. It is fascinating that this resolution has to admit that the oath or affirmation for the president, which is provided for in the U.S. Constitution, is godless. This is further evidence of the secular intent of U.S. founders.
Forbes' resolution insultingly attempts to equate religion with morality and implies that a strict separation between religion and government would lead to the collapse of freedom. The opposite is true.
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