Your homework for today is to go read Michael Shermer’s op-ed in the L. A. Times about the big “In God We Trust” vote. Shermer’s take?
As risible a reason as this was for knocking out a few bricks in the wall separating state and church, it was at least understandable in the context of the times. But today, what is the point of having this motto? There are no communist threats, and belief in God or a universal spirit among Americans is still holding strong at about 90%, according to a 2011 Gallup Poll. The answer is in the wording of the resolution voted on: “Whereas if religion and morality are taken out of the marketplace of ideas, the very freedom on which the United States was founded cannot be secured.”
What is troubling — and should trouble any enlightened citizen of a modern nation such as ours — is the implication that in this age of science and technology, computers and cyberspace, and liberal democracies securing rights and freedoms for oppressed peoples all over the globe, that anyone could still hold to the belief that religion has a monopoly on morality and that the foundation of trust is based on engraving four words on brick and paper.
It’s time to drop the God talk and face reality with a steely-eyed visage of the modern understanding of the origin of freedom on which the United States was founded and continues to be secured. God has nothing to do with it.
The vote in favor of the bill was 396-9. Two further members voted “Present.” It’s sad to say, but in this country that constitutes eleven profiles in courage. Here’s the list:
Lawmakers voting against “In God We Trust” include Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-NY), Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich), Rep. Judy Chu (D-CA), Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-MO), Rep. Mike Honda (D-CA), Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA), Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA), and Rep. Pete Stark (D-CA). Voting present were Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) and Rep. Melvin Watt (D-NC).
Especially noteworthy is Justin Amash as the only Republican to vote against the measure. He’ll probably get primaried for his trouble.
I was pleased to see that one representative from my state was on the list, though not, alas, my representative. At his website, Rep. Bobby Scott posted this explanation for his vote:
Today we face the highest deficit in U.S. history; an unemployment rate of 9.1% and a growing number of people losing access to unemployment insurance each day; schools that lack the resources to give our students a proper education; 17.2 million households that are food insecure; and children who by the very circumstances of their birth are injected onto a Cradle to Prison Pipeline. Instead of facing these challenges and creating jobs to help American people make sure they have a roof over their head and food on their table, we are debating whether or not to affirm and proliferate a motto that was adopted in 1956 and is under no threat of attack. In addition to diverting attention away from substantive issues, the resolution is unconstitutional.
When we were sworn in as Members of Congress, we took an oath to uphold the Constitution. This resolution is inconsistent with that oath and therefore I voted ‘no’ on the resolution.
Again, well said! Also included at Scott’s website is a statement he made as a member of the Judiciary Committee during the markup of the resolution. That’s well worth reading too.