Opinions

The state shouldn't be God's publicist

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There are only two possible ways of interpreting the motive behind a resolution to be put before the American House of Representatives and they both make one feel sick to the stomach. The Republican representative to Virginia, Randy Forbes, has proposed along with 64 co-sponsors that display of the phrase "In God We Trust" should be encouraged in public buildings and schools. Supporters of this resolution either have nothing better to do, which is surely not the case, or they believe that this is an important issue, which is disgusting.

Looking at the problems America is facing, reaffirming "In God We Trust" as the country's official motto isn't a pressing need. The phrase was adopted in 1956 to distance America from the communist Soviet Union (which, if you avoid Stalin's claims to divinity, lacked state-sponsored religion). One year prior, America added the phase "under God" to the Pledge of Allegiance. The American government at all levels should be focusing on the financial recovery and fixing the nation's problems -- a lack of mottos in public schools isn't a serious issue.

Congressman Forbes is no stranger to wasting time in the House. He's the founder of the Congressional Prayer Caucus and regularly campaigns to promote, according to his website, the "religious heritage of our country." A resolution related to this issue, introduced last year by Forbes, included a rejection of the notion "that the laws and Constitution of the United States require the exclusion of God from matters of government and public life."

It is certainly the case that nothing in the Constitution forbids God from matters of public life. Indeed, to ban religious observance or discussion of religious matters would be an affront to secularism, which holds free inquiry and freedom of religious observance as important principles. Just as clearly, however, is the First Amendment to the Constitution, which states that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." If this isn't sufficient evidence against Forbes's claim, I'm unable to think of what would suffice.

The problem is that Forbes doesn't care that the Constitution goes against his claim. Neither do the other 64 supporters of the resolution. This, of course, is a serious problem that will only worsen as the 'America was founded as a Christian nation' lobby grows. Christians are welcome to practice their faith, but they are wrong to claim that Christianity is the state religion. Such thinking goes directly against the goals of the First Amendment. In response to the proposed resolution, Ronald Lindsay, president and CEO of the Center for Inquiry, put it well: "God -- if there is one -- does not need the government as a publicist."

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