July 20, 2009
I’m a fighter for the freedoms of speech and religion. They are our constitutional rights – what the First Amendment is all about. But those freedoms don’t give atheists the entitlement to eliminate or revise America’s religious heritage in the new $621 million taxpayer-provided Capitol Visitors Center, or CVC, in Washington, D.C.
In July, the House and Senate … passed identical resolutions, approving the engravings of the National Motto (“In God We Trust”) and the Pledge of Allegiance in prominent places in CVC – 580,000 square feet facility under the Capitol where 15,500 guests visit each day.
Spearheading the measures were leaders like Rep. Daniel Lungren, R-Calif.; Rep. Randy Forbes, R-Va.; and Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., who have also drawn attention to the oversight of religious heritage in the CVC. The YouTube of Rep. Forbes addressing the House on this matter (“Our Judeo Christian Nation“) has received to date more than 2.5 million hits, making it one of the most widely viewed floor speeches in YouTube history. Some of the 19 omissions and inaccuracies in the CVC can also be seen on Sen. DeMint’s YouTube posting “War on God.”
Forget for a moment the fact that the national motto is on all of our currency. Forget for a moment the fact that the pledge is recited every day in a myriad of settings across this land. Forget for a moment the fact that the Capitol is exceedingly rich in religious history and usage, including its usage for church services all the way up through the Civil War – in 1867 the Capitol was the largest church in Washington with 2,000 people attending weekly. (Rick Tyler, the founding director of Newt Gingrich’s Renewing American Leadership, has done an excellent job documenting the Capitol’s religious history and the subsequent inaccuracies and omissions in the CVC.)
How could anyone have anything against the engraving of our nation’s motto, which is above the very speaker’s rostrum in the House of Representatives? How could anyone have anything against the same for the Pledge of Allegiance, which has been recited each day since its inception in both houses of Congress?
Engraving the motto and pledge in the CVC sounds so basic and reasonable, doesn’t it? Apparently not to the Freedom from Religion Foundation, the nation’s largest group of atheists and agnostics, who filed suit in an effort to prevent the engraving of “In God We Trust” and the Pledge of Allegiance within the CVC.
The Freedom of Religion Foundation is suing to prevent these engravings because, it says, that “both the motto and the words ‘under God’ in the pledge were adopted during the Cold War as anti-communism measures. Engraving them at the entrance to the U.S. Capitol would discriminate against those who do not practice religion and unfairly promote a Judeo-Christian perspective.” (I guess that also transforms our currency with “In God We Trust” on them into Christian tracts?) How preposterous!
Some members of Congress who supported the measure are already denouncing the lawsuit as ludicrous.
“This lawsuit is another attempt by liberal activists to rewrite history and deny that America’s Judeo-Christian heritage is an essential foundation stone of our great nation,” said Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa.
Rep. Daniel Lungren, R-Calif., said he was expecting a lawsuit but called the claims “patently absurd.”
And Rep. Forbes recently stated in an official memo from his offices:
This lawsuit sheds light on the lengths that a small minority will take to remove our nation’s faith history from this generation and future generations of Americans. I, along with many members of the Congressional Prayer Caucus, intend to fight this unabashed and dangerous effort to silence our nation’s history. Truly even our Pledge of Allegiance and our national motto are not spared from these efforts. Our Declaration of Independence states that our rights are “endowed by our Creator.” If the plaintiffs in this lawsuit are successful, they will succeed not only in removing the history for which our fathers and founders sacrificed so much, but also in removing the very source our founders believed provided our rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
Eliminating or revising our Christian heritage seems to be in vogue these days at America’s historic sites. In 2006, tour guides at the Jamestown Settlement, the replica of the first (1607) English
colony in America, were caught intentionally leaving out its Christian heritage when discussing the purpose for the colony. In early 2007, the government explained that the inscription “In God We Trust” was “accidentally left off” the initial minting of the new presidential dollar coins, only to correct the mistake by placing the words on the very edge of the coins – and not until major public pressure was placed upon them did our Congress require the treasury to place the words back upon the face. In mid 2007, the Architect of the Capitol removed any mention of God from the flag-folding ceremonies at veterans’ funerals and earlier attempted to remove “God” from congressional flag certificates. And in late 2007 the chaplain of my organizations discovered that someone in the hierarchy of the Washington Monument had deliberately altered its display of the capstone replica, so that the visiting public would have absolutely no idea that the Latin words “Laus Deo” (meaning “Praise be to God”) were actually inscribed on the very top of the monument as a celebratory finish and dedication (see the live Fox News story from the Washington Monument).
Religious revisionism has even come to the doors of the White House, as our own president denied our country’s Judeo-Christian heritage and make up when he spoke in Turkey on April 6: “We do not consider ourselves a Christian nation.”
Is it merely coincidental that so many acts of revisionism have occurred over the last couple years at governmental and historical sites? Is it merely coincidental that the more modern memorials in Washington (like the Roosevelt and World War II memorials) bear virtually no religious inscriptions at all, while all the former ones do? Is it merely coincidental that the new CVC is the next fighting ground to erase any display of America’s Judeo-Christian heritage?
So, could the lawsuit by the Freedom of Religion Foundation prevail and prevent the engravings in the CVC? Are you kidding? Mark my words: If a few liberal judges get the case, and we the people do nothing, it will. And then that precedent will be used to extend their next argument that our national motto “In God We Trust” is unconstitutional.
That is why I am encouraging Americans to write or call the Architect of the Capitol’s communications officer at (202) 228-1793 and also their representatives to inform them about what they think of the national motto and the Pledge of Allegiance being engraved within the CVC. While you’re at it, remind them that you, the taxpayer, paid for that $621 million facility and that you think some corner of its 580,000 square feet deserves to be dedicated to a permanent display of the Capitol’s rich religious history.
Atheists might not be found in every foxhole, but the bunker called the Capitol Visitors Center has a couple in there right now. I think it’s time that Americans let them know that the motto and pledge are not only at the heart of our country, but that whitewashing God from the walls of history is actually an unfair promotion of atheism and an injustice to all that is America.