44 members of Congress have joined with a extremist legal organization founded by Christian televangelist Pat Robertson, the American Center of Law and Justice, in a friend of the court briefing that pressures a U.S District Court in Wisconsin to dismiss a lawsuit by the Freedom from Religion Foundation seeking to restore the official Capitol Visitor Center in Washington D.C. to a religion-neutral status. The suit attempts to remove the phrases of religious devotion, “In God We Trust” and “one nation under God” from their current display as the only religious phrases engraved into the Center’s design.
The ACLJ and its allied members of Congress cannot help but expose the particular sectarian interests of the inclusion of these religious phrases in an official government place of greeting to the nation’s capital city. Even as the group claims that the phrases don’t violate the First Amendment’s ban on government establishment of religion through Congress, they celebrate the exclusive religious beliefs that these phrases support. Their brief reads,
“Amici take the position that the national motto ‘In God We Trust’ and the Pledge of Allegiance in no way violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. These expressions simply echo the sentiments found in the Declaration of Independence and recognize the undeniable truth that our freedoms come from a source higher than the state. These sentiments were adopted for the express purpose of reaffirming America’s unique understanding of this truth.”
The whole point of the lawsuit is that the idea that America’s freedoms have a supernatural source is not at all an “undeniable truth”. The people who are filing suit deny it. Yet, Pat Robertson’s members of Congress seek to twist the Capitol Visitors Center into a sort of religious shrine where their particular religious beliefs are not allowed to be contradicted.
It’s notable that this group of legislators resorts to the Declaration of Independence in order to undermine the Constitution. The Constitution clearly states that “We The People” are the source of law and freedom. It never mentions any religious source of law or freedom. On the contrary, it acts to separate religious agendas from the people’s government, not just in the First Amendment, but also in the original body of the Constitution, which states that there shall be no religious test for public office. The Declaration of Independence, on the other hand, refers to a general “Creator” – but the Declaration isn’t anything but a political speech. It isn’t law. It isn’t a founding document. It’s just a press release.
Even if one were to accept the idea, in contradiction to the Constitution, that it’s okay for the federal government of the USA to use public resources to bolster religion in general, the phrases “In God We Trust” and “one nation under God” are clearly not designed to promote religion in general. The congressional assertions that the United States of America is a “nation under God” and that Americans are all represented by the motto “In God We Trust” refer specifically to one particular deity that is included in the beliefs of a minority of the people on Earth. These phrases don’t state that the the USA is “one nation under a higher power” or that “In a higher power we trust”. They’re specifically promoting a the deity of Judaism and Christianity, above all other deities. They were crafted in the 1950s for that particular purpose.
When the politicians behind the briefing by the American Center of Law and Justice claim that these congressional statements “In God We Trust” and “one nation under God” are “undeniable truth”, they are using the power of Congress specifically to promote Christianity and Judaism, not just religion in general. They are engaged in exactly the sort of intrusion of the government into the struggle of religion against religion that the First Amendment was intended to prevent. Other religions are excluded, and Christianity and Judaism are exalted at the Capitol Visitors Center.
It isn’t a coincidence that only Christian members of Congress have signed onto the briefing drafted for them by Pat Robertson’s organization. The Christian right wing lobbied long and hard to get the phrases “In God We Trust” and “one nation under God” carved into the Capitol Visitors Center, and they’re loathe to let them go. What they’re seeking is not a nation where all religions are promoted by the government. They’re seeking a nation where their religious vision is allowed to dominate others. They’re seeking a nation where radical right wing Christianity is control, and everyone else is forced to submit. They’re seeking a government of people like Pat Robertson, by people like Pat Robertson, for people like Pat Robertson.
Postscript: I’ve just posted a names of the 44 members of Congress who signed their names to Pat Robertson’s legal brief. Is your U.S. representative or senator on the list?