State/Church Watchdog Group Condemns Irresponsible Congressional Resolution

“Joe McCarthy Lives!”

The U.S. House of Representatives, in thoughtlessly passing a trouble-making resolution promoting the use of the slogan “God Bless America” in public schools, is contributing to an atmosphere of coercion and religious correctness. Bin Laden has declared an international war of “believers against the infidels.” We wonder if religionists in the United States are declaring their own form of war against “infidels” at home; they are certainly capitalizing on a national tragedy to trample on the Establishment Clause.

The phrase “God Bless America” is a prayer, and should not be displayed or posted in public schools. It is distressing to see the overwhelming vote of the U.S. House of Representatives (404 to zero, with 10 voting “present”) to pass a nonbinding resolution on October 16, expressing the “sense of Congress that public schools may display ‘God Bless America.’ “

The Freedom From Religion Foundation expresses its disappointment with the House’s facile retreat to religious jingoism and patriotic piety. Can there be anything more incendiary than mixing patriotism with a religious litmus test?

The phrase “God Bless America,” which has been placed on several public school marquees in response to the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, is not generic or subscribed to by all Americans. How would many citizens feel if their school marquee read: “Allah Bless America” or “Buddha Bless America”?

Schools which choose to advertise religious slogans are disregarding more than 50 years of court precedent against religious endorsement, school prayer and coercion in public schools.

“No official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein,” the Supreme Court eloquently held in West Virginia v. Barnette (1943). Public schools which post “God Bless America” are prescribing what should be orthodox in nationalism and religion. Many inoffensive and secular phrases, such as “United We Stand,” could express support for the victims of Sept. 11.

In our diverse culture, millions of families are not religious. Students and their families who are atheists, agnostics, unbelievers and those from minority religious viewpoints should not be preached at by their public schools.


Freedom From Religion Foundation

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