Emancipation Hall of the Capitol Visitor Center, photo from Wikipedia
The U.S. House and Senate apparently need a refresher course in the Constitution. The Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF) is happy to oblige by launching a lawsuit to block them from spending federal money to tell visitors to Washington, D.C. that we are beholden to God.
The House voted 410-8 late last week to prominently include "In God We Trust" in the new Capitol Visitor Center, as well as the Pledge of Allegiance (which claims we are "one Nation, under God"). They were following the Senate’s lead earlier in the week. In biased reporting, this Yahoo News / AP article only mentions why people voted for the measure.
Rep. Dan Lungren , R-Calif., sponsor of the measure, said the importance of religion goes back to the Declaration of Independence , which states that all men "are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights " […]
And yet, the Constitution — the United States’ founding document — does not mention any Creator. Were the Founding Fathers asleep at the wheel? Did they wake up afterwards and say "Oh my, we forgot to put God in the Constitution!" and then decided, unlike the first 10 Amendments, that they just couldn’t be bothered to put it in an Amendment?
Considering that the God references in the Pledge and the national motto didn’t appear until the 1950s, it seems much more likely that it was intentionally left out by generations of lawmakers. According to Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, the Constitution does not require anything religious, and omits it in places where some people think it is required (such as swearing on a Bible).
The Yahoo / AP article also states that:
The Congressional Budget Office estimated the cost of the engravings at less than $100,000.
It’s subtle, but "less than $100,000" makes it sounds like it’s not that big a deal. You could also so "almost/nearly $100,000" to make it sound like a big deal, or "under $100,000" to be more neutral.
As stated in the FFRF press release for their lawsuit (which, unlike the supposedly unbiased AP News and Yahoo News, is expected to promote a specific point of view), the Visitors Center is
"conceived as an extension of the Capitol rather than a stand-alone facility; the Capitol Visitor Center is intended to be and is the sole point of entry to the seat of American government."
So it’s basically forcing God onto people visiting the national legislature despite the First Amendment’s prohibition against establishing religion. The complaint also points out that 15% of Americans identify as non-religious, as I mentioned in a previous post .
In an economic crisis, is there really nothing better the government can spend less than/nearly $100,000 on than adding religion to the Visitor Center? That’s more than a lot of people (including me) make as a salary for a year, so I don’t think it’s small peanuts.
I’ll see if I can find out the 8 who voted against it (and find out who, if anyone, voted against it in the Senate) so they can get the recognition they deserve.