In smears we trust

The Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) sent an email noting several recent articles railing against their move to sue to keep "In God We Trust" and the god-filled Pledge of Allegiance out of the Capital Visitor Center (my take on the issue here ).

One article that caught my eye in particular was in the Examiner , a site I had recently quoted from. (See a few quick notes at the end about the Examiner and sources in general). The author directly addresses FFRF and its co-president Annie Laurie Gaylor directly, saying:

you are wrong about something… there are not 15% of Americans who identify themselves as non-religious. At best, (or worst, depending on your point of view) only 5% of our population claims atheist/agnostic status.

The Examiner article by Doug Billings cites no source refuting the claim, only makes an unsupported counter-claim about atheists and agnostics (making it seem like that’s the same as non-religious, which it’s not). I can (and did, in the comments) cite a well-publicized source identifying 15% of Americans identifying as non-religious. The ARIS (American Religious Identification Survey) data was collected by Trinity College in Connecticut. Although their charter prohibits discriminating based on religion, they were founded by Episcopals  and have "Trinity" right in their name, so they don’t on the surface appear to be anti-Christian, and yet they still claim 15% of Americans self-identify as non-religious.

The majority of the rest of the article/opinion piece is just a name-calling rant against non-believers, including this image:

and referring to Annie Laurie Gaylor’s point about the country not being founded on Christianity by saying "In another gleaming example of her intellectual shortcomings […]". Everyone has a right to their opinion, but they should not pull statistics and alleged facts out of the air on a site run by a news agency, where such items are accepted by some as news articles.

Although they openly call for people from around the country to apply to be examiners to submit local news, and did have some atheist-related news on them, it is important to note that they have as their owner Philip Anschutz , funder and proponent of the Discovery Institute .

This does not mean that all information on the Examiner site is false or slanted, just that it’s important to remember for all information you get, to consider where it’s coming from, including from my site and blog. I’m obviously going to pick stories that are related to atheism, freethought, etc., but I do attempt to be as unbiased as possible when it comes to presenting facts. I also cite my sources, and when it’s not obvious from the name of the source if they have a slant, I point it out when I’m aware of it, and normally try to find out and report on it when I’m not.

We all, including myself, should be careful about the information we use: not to limit where we look, but to judge its worth and try to verify when possible. Otherwise we might be like the author of the Examiner article who may actually believe he is telling the truth, when it instead comes out as an unjustified and inaccurate smear against those who aren’t religious.

In God We Don’t Trust

File:Emancipation-Hall 1.jpg
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.