Say No to House Resolution 888

Remember the travesty that was House Resolution 847? It was about “the importance of Christmas and the Christian faith.” And it passed by an overwhelming margin.

House Resolution 888, which has not been voted on yet, is even worse.

It was introduced the week before Christmas by Congressman Randy Forbes (R-VA) and it basically tries to rewrite American history. It currently has 31 co-sponsors.

Here’s the resolution:

Affirming the rich spiritual and religious history of our Nation’s founding and subsequent history and expressing support for designation of the first week in May as `American Religious History Week’ for the appreciation of and education on America’s history of religious faith.

As Chris Rodda writes:

This resolution, which purports to promote “education on America’s history of religious faith,” is packed with the same American history lies found on the Christian nationalist websites, and in the books of pseudo-historians like David Barton. It lists a total of seventy-five “Whereas’s,” leading up to four resolves, the third of which is particularly disturbing — that the U.S. House of Representatives “rejects, in the strongest possible terms, any effort to remove, obscure, or purposely omit such history from our Nation’s public buildings and educational resources,” a travesty of the highest magnitude, considering that most of the “history” this resolve aims to promote in our public buildings and schools IS NOT REAL!

Chris focuses on fourteen of those “Whereas’s” and explains why they’re inaccurate. Here’s just one example of Forbes’ distortions (which Chris rips to shreds):

“Whereas in 1777, Congress, facing a National shortage of `Bibles for our schools, and families, and for the public worship of God in our churches,’ announced that they `desired to have a Bible printed under their care & by their encouragement’ and therefore ordered 20,000 copies of the Bible to be imported `into the different ports of the States of the Union’;”

First of all, the first two quotes in this statement, which Mr. Forbes claims were “announced” by Congress, were not the words of Congress, but come from the petition of a group of Philadelphia ministers. Second, Congress did not import any Bibles.

In 1777, three ministers from Philadelphia, Francis Alison, John Ewing, and William Marshall, came up with a plan to alleviate the Bible shortage caused by the inability to import books from England during the Revolutionary War. The ministers’ request for help from Congress, and Congress’s consideration of the ministers’ petition had to do with the problem of price gouging during the war.

The ministers’ idea was to import the necessary type and paper, and print an edition of the Bible in Philadelphia. The problem with this plan, however, was that, if the project was financed and controlled by private companies, the Bibles would most likely be bought up and resold at prices that the average American couldn’t afford. What the ministers wanted Congress to do was to import the materials and finance the printing, as a loan to be repaid by the sale of the Bibles. As Rev. Alison explained in the petition, if Congress imported the type and paper, and Congress contracted the printer, then Congress could regulate the selling price of the Bibles.(4)

The petition was referred to a committee, which concluded that it would be too costly to import the type and paper, and too risky to import them into Philadelphia, a city likely to be invaded by the British, and proposed the less risky alternative of importing already printed Bibles into different ports from a country other than England. If Congress did this, they would still be able to regulate the selling price and be reimbursed by the sales.

What appears in the Journals of the Continental Congress after the committee’s report is the following motion.

“Whereupon, the Congress was moved, to order the Committee of Commerce to import twenty thousand copies of the Bible.”(5)

The problem for those who claim or imply, as Mr. Forbes does, that the Bibles were imported is that, although this motion passed, it was not a final vote to import the Bibles. It was a vote to replace the original plan of importing the type and paper with the committee’s new proposal of importing already printed Bibles. The vote on this motion was close — seven states voted yes; six voted no. A second motion was then made to pass an actual resolution to import the Bibles, but this was postponed and never brought up again. No Bibles were imported. This little problem is solved in the religious right history books by either misquoting the motion to turn it into a resolution, or omitting the motion altogether and ending the story with some statement implying that the Bibles were imported.

See also Chapter 1 of Liars For Jesus: The Religious Right’s Alternate Version of American History, “Congress and the Bible,” at http://www.liarsforjesus.com/downloads/LFJ_chap_1.pdf

There’s a lot more where that came from.

Daily Kos says this about the bill:

If H. Res. 888 passes then the lies get enshrined, and “validated” in the Congressional Record and if that happens the people pushing the fake history will be better able to pass it off as real – hey, it’s in the Congressional Record! It must be true!

H. Res 888 is designed to make the history lies, cooked up by historical revisionists of the Christian right, more respectable. And, to the extent Congress members vote for it they become caught up in a web of complicity – the overwriting of American history.

If you want to know how to get your representatives to take action against this bill, go here for more information.

(Thanks to Vincent for the link!)


[tags]atheist, atheism[/tags]

  • Tolga K.

    I wrote to my congressman about this. I hope I did this right:

    House Resolution 888

    I’m sure you’ve heard of this resolution, which was proposed mid-late December, regarding the religious history of this nation.

    I’m writing to tell you that this resolution, if passed, will lead to great harm to the non-Christian people of this country. Combined with resolution 847 (which you did not vote on) and what I fear will be more resolutions favoring Christians, certain members of congress are working to eradicate the separation of church (specifically Christianity) and state. I fear that any resolutions by the government to highlight religion in a secular society (aside from declaring that religion has no place in government decision-making and spending except in regards to keeping all people equal no matter their beliefs).

    I hope you understand that I don’t have anything against Christians either. It’s these fundamentalists that are doing the harm. Moderate Christians and even many of the conservative ones will also see negative repercussions if this resolution and similar resolutions are passed.

    I urge you to please vote against this resolution as a representative of the minorities of this country. I know you see and understand that religion is starting to infiltrate politics again and that it would be a great disservice to our democratic republic (which in this nation is designed to protect the minority) if you either vote in favor of this resolution or don’t vote at all.

    I also urge you to take any opportunity you have to explain to fellow representatives (and release a letter to our constituency) about the misinformation in this resolution and how it can be harmful to future people and to government policy.

    Unlike resolution 847, you need to at least participate in this vote. On principle, I believe it is worth risking another election to show what is wrong with this proposition.

    While I haven’t the time yet to compile my research about this, there has been another person who has, and I’d like you to read his article on the resolution. (http://www.dailykos.com/story/2008/1/4/884/00472/895/430331)

    Please help make it widely known that Randy Forbes (R-VA) is perpetuating lies and misconceptions in order to diminish the secular principles on which this country was found. And again, please vote against it.

    Thank you,

    An extremely concerned citizen.

  • Mriana

    Congress is making me sick. Thing is writing Boy Blunt does me no good, because he’s for the religious reich. McCatskill might work. Thing is, I’m concerned that it could get so bad eventually, the even openning one’s mouth against the religious reich could get you imprisoned. I hope not, but it seems it’s heading towards being as bad as Islamic extremists nations.

  • http://crazyrainbowunderwear.blogspot.com yinyang

    You know what makes me sad? That my representative is one of the co-sponsors. Hopefully, though, enough other people will be able to speak out against HR 888 so it doesn’t pass. It’s stupid, wrong, and a waste of time.

  • Vincent

    Mriana (and yinyang)
    Please write your congressperson. Even if you think they are supporting the religious reich – because more than supporting churches they want to be elected. If they get pleas and outcry from constituents they could change their minds. Plus, this is not a difficult one to oppose because of the errors. You can say “hey, the church is great. I love the church. That’s why I don’t want to have to rely on lies to support it. This bill is full of falsehoods and God would not want us to use lies to further his will. The truth is enough.”
    And congresspersons have been known to sponsor a bill but later vote against it.

  • Mriana

    Vincent, I can’t say that church is great or that I love church, because I don’t. I would leaver everything you said about God out of it too. I don’t see God having anything to do with it.

    However, that is the problem between Boy Blunt and me, he’s ultra religious and I’m not. McCatskill is a little better about this.

    No worries, I’ll figure out something to say.

  • http://thatatheistguysblog.blogspot.com NYCatheist

    Thanks for posting this Hemant! I just sent my e-mail and let my friends know about it too.

  • NCrob

    This better not pass.

  • Gary Grant

    What is the current status on HR 888? Is there still time to protest?

    Gary