Many people make excuses for the existence of a government-paid Christian priest working in the U.S. House of Representatives by saying that the government priest is performing something they like to call “Ceremonial Deism”. What is Ceremonial Deism? It’s a form of religion that exists solely as an excuse for violating the Constitution.
Look around you. Is there any a building called the First Church of Ceremonial Deism in your neighborhood? No, but Ceremonial Deism is practiced all around you – in public schools, for example, when children are pushed by make a little prayer to the Christian God every time they say the Pledge of Allegiance. In courts of law, when people are forced to swear oaths, “So help me God”, they say that Ceremonial Deism is being practiced. Ceremonial Deism is what people call Christianity when it’s being practiced by the government, in spite of the First Amendment’s requirement of no government establishment of religion.
Oh, people who use the excuse of Ceremonial Deism say that Ceremonial Deism isn’t Christianity, but that it stands for religion in general. However, the form of Ceremonial Deism is specifically Christian in practice, using Christian ceremonies of prayer, and refers to the Christian divinity of “God”, often including specific praises for Jesus Christ, the Christian Bible, Christian prophecies and Christian doctrines. In Congress, where Ceremonial Deism is supposed to be centered, there has never been a non-Christian allowed to serve either as Chaplain of the Senate or Chaplain of the House.
What’s more, the powers of supposedly Ceremonial Deist posts such as the congressional chaplains are frequently used to promote Christianity, put down non-Christian religions, and denigrate non-religious Americans. That’s what happened this last Thursday, when the government-paid official priest of the U.S. House of Representatives, Daniel P. Coughlin, declared in his government-established prayer, “Ever loving and attentive Lord… free us from fear that inhibits our belief in our own capabilities and in Your promises… Your Providence, Lord, Your Providence alone, guides this Nation. And so once more we say as Your people: ‘In God we trust.’”
The providence of Coughlin’s Christian God alone guides the United States of America? That’s a slur against our Constitution, which establishes a human government established by “We the people”, not by any gods. It’s also an insult against religions other than Christianity, a conspicuous statement that the government of the United States of America is the property of the Christian deity, and all other deities can shove off. The many Americans who don’t believe in God are targeted by Coughlin’s other prayerful poke, in which he speaks, as a representative of the government, saying that atheists need to be liberated from fear and become Christians, believing in the promises of Christianity.
If Daniel P. Coughlin were really just a Ceremonial Deist, and not a priest given the power of government to push the ideology of Christians at the expense of everyone else, then Coughlin would confine himself to simple, generic prayers. Couglin might say something simple, such as, “Let us hope that our actions today are informed by wisdom and result in the benefit of the American people.” That’s not what Coughlin does. Day after day, Coughlin is using his position in Congress to exalt Christianity and put down non-Christian Americans.
Of course, even if there were some kind of coherent, non-Christian religion called Ceremonial Deism, it would be unconstitutional for Congress to appoint someone to serve as a chaplain practicing Ceremonial Deist rituals before Congress. Ceremonial Deism would still be, after all, a religion.
The Constitution of the United States of America is very clear. It forbids any establishment of religion by Congress, and outlaws any religious test for public office. The Office of the Chaplain of the House of Representatives requires both.