[UPDATE (20:00 Eastern time): Sigh. The bill passed.]
[UPDATE 2 (23:00 Eastern time): I have been told that this bill, even when passed, does not have the force of law. It's what's called a House Concurrent Resolution, and basically is used to express a sentiment of the legislature. I might then argue it's not unconstitutional, but then why did several House members say it would be (see the link provided in the post below)? Making law really is like making sausages. Anyway, even if the argument about it being unconstitutional is not a good one, this bill was still a colossal waste of time, and meaningless. There is simply no good, real reason to have done this, and the fact that so many thought it was a good expenditure of time, and that so many signed it, makes me sad.]
I found out about this too late to do much about it, but just in case you hadn’t heard, The US House of Representatives is voting tonight on a bill to
make reaffirm "In God We Trust" the official motto of the US.
This is pretty shocking. Well, it’s not shocking in that everything the Republican-majority House has done in the past few months has been pretty antireality, but this is such a clear violation of the First Amendment that it’s, well, shocking. That Amemndent to the US Constitution says:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…
There are many cases where the interpretation of this simple statement is not terribly clear, but this ain’t one of them. Passing a bill saying the official motto of this country is a religious one is clearly making a law about the establishing of religion. It is putting a religious belief above non-religion, for one. It is also putting a monotheistic belief above pantheism, for another. While some people might think pantheism is silly, that doesn’t matter. What does matter is that this bill violates the Establishment Clause.
And it’s not just me saying that; several dissenters in the House feel that way as well.
This country, you may have noticed, is a mess. A lot of this is due to the government itself, but we’re at the point that we need the government to fix it. There are ways they could help: jobs bills, increasing science funding, and so on. Instead, they’re wasting time and making us look foolish by violating the very principles upon which this country was founded.
We are not a Christian nation. The majority of this country may be religious, but that is all the more reason to make very, very sure our laws are free from religion. The immediate reason is that we want everyone to be free to practice religion or not according to their own beliefs or lack thereof. But also, remember, just because one religion has the majority now doesn’t mean it always will. There could come a time when some other religion, or some other version of it, has control. Making laws based on religion now will make it easier to make laws based on some other religion then.
It’s a bad, bad idea.
I know that the current House has no clue about this sort of thinking, but we the voters do. Any Congressperson who is inclined to vote YES on this bill should first remember the very first thing they did when sworn in as a Representative of the American people: uphold and defend the Constitution. This bill is the antithesis of that oath, in spirit if not in letter.
[UPDATE: Note that I originally said this bill would make this the official motto; it is actually to "reaffirm" it. Either way, it's a waste of time and still a violation of the Establishment Clause, as the dissenters pointed out.]
Tip o’ the quill to Tim Lloyd on Google+.
- Are the Ten Commandments really the basis for our laws?
- We are not a Christian nation
- Evolution is the coin of the realm
- Texas State Board of Education confirms irony is dead
- Pray for the First Amendment
Via Hemant Mehta comes this story that could not have happened at a more appropriate time.
One of the most basic principles of the United States, written out in the very first Amendment of the Bill of Rights, is that the government will neither endorse nor deny any specific religion, or interfere with anyone’s ability to worship or not.
This is pretty straightforward. You have the right to your religion, and I have the right to mine. You even have the right to not have a religion. But no matter what, you have the right to not have your religion interfered with.
Eric Workman, a (now-graduated) high school student in Greenwood, Indiana, understood this. That’s why, when his school administration decided to let the seniors vote on whether they wanted to have an official school-sanctioned prayer at graduation, he tried to get it stopped. He wound up having to take the case to the ACLU, and a judge ordered that no school-sanctioned prayer could be held at the ceremony.
There’s a lot to discuss here, but the most important things to remember during any of it are these:
1) Eric is correct, and
2) Eric is Christian.
That’s right, he’s not some baby-eating atheist waiting to escort the souls of the graduating class to Satan’s doorstep. He’s a Christian, but even in that extremely conservative area he understands that the Constitution, and our Founding Fathers, got it right.