Saluting the Nine Who Voted No
The vote by the House of Representatives on Dec. 11, 2007, to approve H. Res. 847, Recognizing the importance of Christmas and the Christian faith," was both a meaningless exercise in pandering, and a meaningful gauge of how quickly politicians still roll over and play dead when confronted with a religious "gotcha" issue.
The bill, introduced on Dec. 6 by Rep. Steve King, R-IA, with 51 cosponsors, is one of those fatuous resolutions beloved by self-serving politicians, who like to offer empty platitudes acknowledging various constituencies. But this resolution crossed the line.
The House, in enacting it, recognized the existence and numbers of Christians ("the largest religion in the world"), which, arguably might be appropriate, depending on the point. But the House went too far in approvingly reciting primitive Christian doctrine:
"Christians identify themselves as those who believe in the salvation from sin offered to them through the sacrifice of their savior, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and who, out of gratitude for the gift of salvation, commit themselves to living their lives in accordance with the teachings of the Holy Bible."
The House did not just acknowledge December 25 as a holiday observed by Christians, it said: "for Christians, Christmas is celebrated as a recognition of God's redemption, mercy, and Grace." There are no secular trimmings in that "whereas" clause.
Although falling short of calling the United States a Christian nation, and while properly identifying the United States as a "constitutional republic," the House went on to claim that U.S. history "points observers back to its roots in Christianity."
Au contraire. The U.S. Constitution was a product of the secular Enlightenment. There is no bible, no god, no Christianity there, just an absence of religious sentiment and a repudiation of religion in government, such as that there shall be no religious test for public office.
The House resolution resolves that Congress "acknowledges and supports the role played by Christians and Christianity in the founding of the United States and in the formation of the western civilization."
Don't members of Congress read the Constitution they take an oath to support? Do 372 members of Congress seriously need remedial civics, or do they just not care that the U.S. Constitution is the most successful and longest-lived constitution precisely because it does not claim a pipeline to some divinity or align with a faith?
The nine members of the House who had the courage to vote against this resolution should be saluted. They are:
Yvette Clarke, D-NY
Gary Ackerman, D-NY
Barbara Lee, D-CA
Diana DeGette, D-CO
Alcee Hastings, D-FL
James McDermott, D-WA
Robert Scott, D-VA
Pete Stark, D-CA
Lynn Woolsey, D-CA
Those ten simply voting "present" also deserve thanks:
Frank Barney, D-MA
John Conyers, D-MI
Rush Holt, D-NJ
Donald Payne, D-NJ
Mike Pence, R-IN
Allyson Schwartz, D-PA
Janice Schakowsky, D-IL
Peter Welch, D-VT
Debbie Schultz Wasserman, D-FL
John Yarmuth, D-KY
Additionally, 40 members of Congress, a mix of Democrats and Republicans, did not vote, for whatever reason.
As for the 372 voting "aye," they need to hear from individuals within the growing and significant population in this country who are not religious, and from state/church advocates of whatever suasion, who know our government is not supposed to be religious, either.
How many years do you suppose it will take for the House to pass a resolution praising the nonreligious as the second-largest segment of the world population, the heirs of Thomas Paine, the guardians of the flame of liberty sparked by the Enlightenment, and deserving of Congress' "deepest respect"?