God to be Engraved in Visitor Center

This post is by Jesse Galef, who works for the Secular Coalition for America.  He also blogs at Rant & Reason

Nothing says “Visitor Center” like excluding 15% of Americans in large, engraved letters:

House Committee Approves Engraving ‘In God We Trust’ in Capitol Visitor Center

The House Administration Committee has unanimously approved a resolution directing the Architect of the Capitol to engrave the National Motto — “In God We Trust” – and the Pledge of Allegiance inside the new Capitol Visitor Center (CVC).

Last September, [Senator] DeMint criticized the visitor center, which he said “generally ignores” the role of faith in the founding – and life – of the nation.

“There are a few articles in the CVC that reflect elements of faith — two Bibles, a picture of the congressional nondenominational faith space, and the oath of office — but I believe they grossly understate the prominent role of faith and Judeo Christian values in the history of this great building” he said in a statement,” he said.

I’ve never understood how a person could argue that using “In God We Trust” as a national motto is constitutional.  It rather bluntly establishes that the government acknowledges the existence of God, and believes that such a God is worthy of trust.

The best excuse (and quite bad, at that) is that such expressions are ceremonial deism – which Supreme Court Justice Brennan wrote in a dissent are “protected from Establishment Clause scrutiny chiefly because they have lost through rote repetition any significant religious content.”  He continued by saying:

Moreover, these references are uniquely suited to serve such wholly secular purposes as solemnizing public occasions, or inspiring commitment to meet some national challenge in a manner that simply could not be fully served in our culture if government were limited to purely nonreligious phrases.

That’s simply ridiculous.  I’ve been to enough Ethical Culture platforms to know that life can be significant and solemn on its own without invoking the supernatural.

We don’t even have to go back very far for examples – our original national motto was the brilliant “E Pluribus Unum”.

Personally, I’m pushing for “So Say We All” to become a common ceremonial expression.

Hemant adds: I had written something up after this was posted, so I’m deleting my posting and just adding on to Jesse’s post. Sorry for any confusion!

Take a look at H. Con. Res. 131:

Directing the Architect of the Capitol to engrave the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag and the National Motto of “In God We Trust” in the Capitol Visitor Center.

In other words, they’re Christianizing the Capitol.

While Republican Rep. Daniel Lungren is the sponsor of the bill, keep it mind it was unanimously approved by the House Administration Committee, made up of six Democrats and three Republicans.

“While the Capitol Visitor Center did a good job in incorporating many elements, I believe there are two important (items) that were absent — the Pledge of Allegiance and the National Motto ‘In God We Trust,’” Rep. Dan Lungren (R-Calif.) said Wednesday.

“I am pleased that this resolution remedies this oversight and incorporates those important parts of our national heritage into the CVC,” Lungren added.

Here’s what I wouldn’t mind seeing engraved: The original, though unofficial, motto of the U.S.: E pluribus unum (“Out of many, One”) and the original “Pledge of Allegiance” (sans “Under God”).

The resolution still has to pass through the House and the Senate… but it already has 89 co-sponsors — every single one of whom is Republican.

Let’s hope the Democrats can take a stand and keep the Capitol building religiously neutral.

(via seculardotorg)

About Dr. Denise Cooper-Clarke

I am a graduate of medicine and theology with a Ph.D in medical ethics. I tutor in medical ethics at the University of Melbourne, am an (occasional) adjunct Lecturer in Ethics at Ridley Melbourne, and a voluntary researcher with Ethos. I am also a Fellow of ISCAST and a past chair of the Melbourne Chapter of Christians for Biblical Equality. I have special interests in professional ethics, sexual ethics and the ethics of virtue.

  • Lifer

    I’ve already got everyone saying FRACK!

    One step at a time.

  • Infinite Monkey

    I’m sorry, I guess I slept through the section on how faith and the JudeoChristian religion helped shape this country. Are you talking about Salem Witch Trials? Manifest Destiny? The forced conversion and/or slaughter of the natives? Are these things we should be celebrating? If you’re talking about why people came over here, it was to practice their religion the way they wanted, or didn’t want to. If you’re speaking in reference to the founding fathers, the latter applies more.

    Additionally, since saying them over and over has made them lose thier religion connotation, does that mean that we can put “In Zues we trust”? It would be just as religiously void.

  • phoenixflash

    I am so sick of politicians trying to appease the religious right I could puke. I thought that maybe things would have changed with the new administration. I am becoming embarassed to be a democrat and embarassed that I voted for Obama.

  • Indigo

    So if “ceremonial deism” is largely devoid of meaning, why all the push to put it up in the first place?

  • http://www.freethoughtcrime.com FreeThoughtCrime

    ‘So Say We All’ would be great!

  • littlejohn

    Thou shalt make no graven image.

  • medussa

    Does anyone know the names and e-mail addresses of the 6 demo-rats on the committee that approved this?
    They don’t know it yet, but they need a history and civics lesson, and I will be happy to provide it.

  • http://avertyoureye.blogspot.com/ Teleprompter

    I suppose “In God We Trust” is in direct contradiction to “E Pluribus Unum” because “In God We Trust” really means that some of us are better than others – it’s not exactly the egalitarian message of “out of many, one”.

    This whole affair just makes we want to vomit. I am tired of American Exceptionalism and the idea that this is specifically a religious or a Christian nation. I am sick of the idea that religious people are more moral or better citizens. This is why I am vocal about atheism: I exist, I have serious beliefs, and I am not going away.

  • Hey You

    Using any reference to any god in a national (or state) motto is inherently religious in nature. Claiming it has lost its religious content in any way through any means is insulting to our intelligence. Just because people repeat it over and over again doesn’t change its meaning (or make it true). Do Catholics think saying Hail Marys over and over again eliminates its religious nature? I doubt it. It is a clear violation of the separation of church and state. Simple as that.

  • SarahH

    Let’s hope the Democrats can take a stand and keep the Capitol building religiously neutral.

    So say we all!

  • Heidi

    I love the idea behind E Pluribus Unum. Why do we let the freak jobs take over our good ideas.

    @Medussa: the committee members are linked in the above article: http://cha.house.gov/committee_membership.aspx

    And oh, look. One of them is from Massachusetts, and so am I. He’s not from my district, but I may just have something to say to him anyway.

  • http://www.myspace.com/rox1smf Rox1SMF

    Christians are so damned determined to impose their God on everyone that they willingly accept getting a mention on the grounds that these things are “ceremonial deism,” supposedly neutral and devoid of religious connotation. Isn’t that the very definition of “taking God’s name in vain?”

    Restoring the Pledge and Motto is the fight I’ve been waging the longest. I’ve argued “our side” for nearly 30 years – as a Christian, a pagan and now an atheist. No matter what one’s religious beliefs may be, any American who holds our Constitution dear should rail against those violations against it that have been allowed to stand.

    This engraving can NOT take place!

  • bonefish

    It’s painfully obvious that the majority of politicians are not in the least interested in anything but assuring their re-elections. If they can throw a sop to the religionists they really could not possibly care less about the fundamental principles of this country. Maybe I will send a copy of James Madison’s “Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments” in an admittedly vain hope that some of them will read and understand. *sigh*

  • Reginald Selkirk

    On the state level, an effective way to kill something like this is; instead of opposing it outright, to pad it with extras that send it way over the top. For example, amend it to include the sermon on the mount. What Republican legislator could vote against that? And yet it would clearly send the measure bounding over the church|state line.

    I have seen this work on the state level, I don’t know if federal lawmakers would be sophisticated enough to perceive and counter such an attempt.

  • DP

    You should all be embarrassed you voted for Obama. Just look at the deficit these days. And to think that this country was not founded on Christian principles is a joke. Look at the men who’s signatures are on the declaration of independence, look at their connection to the idea of the supernatural. Politicians have appeased the left so much allowing gays to acquire a marriage license, having our soldiers hesitate to pull triggers, and apologizing for saving lives. It does not infringe on your rights to have something engraved on a government building. Get realistic and get a life.


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