Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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May 30, 2009

THIS WEEK IN GOD.... First up from the God Machine this week is a church-state story that we've been following, about the ongoing complaints about the new visitor center that opened in December on Capitol Hill.

Some religious right activists and far-right lawmakers, led in large part by South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint (R), are outraged that the visitor center is largely secular. For example, near the center's entrance, there's an engraving: "We have built no temple but the Capitol. We consult no common oracle but the Constitution." The quote comes from Rufus Choate, who served in the House and Senate in the 1830s, and DeMint described the quote as "offensive."

This week, Roll Call reported that some GOP lawmakers are pushing a bill that would spend $150,000 in taxpayer money to etch a reference to "In God We Trust" as the national motto into stone, and placed prominently in the Capitol Visitor Center.

"There are number of references or appropriate religious references in the Capitol Visitor Center, but this is something I think is important," said Rep. Dan Lungren (Calif.), the bill's lead sponsor and the top Republican on the House Administration Committee. "We do have 'In God We Trust' over the rostrum in the House ... [and] it has a relationship to the Founding Fathers' documents."

Actually, Lungren's wrong; "In God We Trust" doesn't appear in any of the "Founding Fathers' documents." Literally, not one. In fact, the nation's founders chose "e pluribus unum" as a national motto -- a reference to the nation's unique diversity -- and Lungren, the Heritage Foundation, and other conservatives want references to it replaced.

Lungren's bill, submitted last Wednesday, currently has four co-sponsors in the House. Expect that number to grow.

Also from the God Machine this week:

* Liberty University, the evangelical college in Virginia started by televangelist Jerry Falwell, caused some controversy last week when it yanked official recognition for the on-campus student group for Democrats. This week, my friends at Americans United for Separation of Church and State asked the Internal Revenue Service to review the tax-exempt status of the school, arguing that Liberty, as a tax-exempt institution, cannot legally favor one political party over another.

* Bill Donohue of the Catholic League, oddly enough, will not oppose Sonia Sotomayor's Supreme Court nomination. "I like the fact that she is not brandishing her religion," Donohue told Steven Waldman. "I do not want Catholic judges to rule as Catholics but as judges. I am all for Catholic legislators having a Catholic-informed opinion, but a judge has a different charge. Unless something pops that we don't know about, I am not going to oppose her. Indeed, the experiences I had working with the Puerto Rican community lead me to quietly root for her."

* And finally, in Miami, the Rev. Alberto Cutie, a Cuban-American priest, is a celebrity, often referred to as "Father Oprah." He has hosted shows on Telemundo, is a syndicated Spanish-language columnist, and headed the archdiocese's Radio Paz and Radio Peace broadcasts, heard throughout the Americas and in Spain. Cutie ran into a little trouble recently when he was photographed showing quite a bit of affection for his girlfriend -- which is generally frowned upon among Roman Catholic priests. This week, Cutie left the Catholic Church, was received into the Episcopal Church, and announced his wedding engagement.

Steve Benen 10:10 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (18)

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Comments

this is an obnoxious post.

Posted by: whatever on May 30, 2009 at 10:20 AM | PERMALINK

Hey Lungren, you'll shoot your eye out! -Kevo

Posted by: kevo on May 30, 2009 at 10:33 AM | PERMALINK

"In God We Trust" is only 50-odd years old as our motto -- a Cold War reactionary move that was meant to show how we differed from the godless communists.

Posted by: TR on May 30, 2009 at 10:36 AM | PERMALINK

Whatever: it is not clear if your post is the obnoxious offender in a satirical sense, or whether you advocate religious extremism in the literal sense.

I think it is time we trust again in our diversity and humanity--the 2008 election seemed to validate that. There is no way we can advocate any form of deism without some form of Omnipotent cage match. If there is a God, and it is all powerful and all knowing, I am thinking free will seems to be an important part of its scheme.
When you look objectively at the "In God We Trust" squad, isn't it sad that they think they need to to carve a few mottoes in stone to buy some peace and quiet from petty and vengeful wrath? GOP motto: "Kissing the Almighty's ass, just in case."

Posted by: Sparko on May 30, 2009 at 10:50 AM | PERMALINK

TR beat me to it but, yes, the "In God We Trust" motto only started showing up in the 1950s when we were fighting "Godless Communism."

In fact, there are a lot of things now claimed as long-standing traditions that are of similar vintage. IIRC, the disputed Confederate flag on the state capitol in South Carolina was only installed in the 1950s when the civil rights movement started to heat up.

Posted by: Mnemosyne on May 30, 2009 at 11:12 AM | PERMALINK

$150,000 in taxpayer money

I'm on a mission to get my fellow liberals to stop using the phrase "taxpayer money", and to use "public money" instead.

The phrase "taxpayer money" buys into the right wing thesis that this money belongs more to those who pay more in taxes, and that those who pay more in taxes should have a greater say in how it's spent. It doesn't, and they shouldn't. Money in the federal treasury belongs to all American citizens equally.

Posted by: Brock on May 30, 2009 at 11:26 AM | PERMALINK

In case anyone would like to join, or make a donation, or whatever:

Americans United for Separation of Church and State

When making sarcastic remarks on comments pages just isn't enough.


Posted by: hells littlest angel on May 30, 2009 at 11:28 AM | PERMALINK

Has anyone been able to confirm this story through a reputable source? Not that it's out of the realm of possibility, I just get suspicious when many different sites reference one primary source.

From the Toronto Star:

Stranger still are new accounts emerging from France describing how former president Jacques Chirac was utterly baffled by a 2003 telephone conversation in which Bush reportedly invoked fanatical Old Testament prophecy, including the Earth-ending battle with forces of evil -- Gog and Magog -- in his arguments to enlist France in the Coalition of the Willing.

More detail at Alternet.

Posted by: beep52 on May 30, 2009 at 11:28 AM | PERMALINK

Here is a story you may have missed:

S 0873 sponsored by SC State Senator Michael L. Fair (R -- District 6 - Greenville Co.) (read it here) that seeks to, quote, "PROVIDE THAT CURRICULUM USED TO TEACH
STUDENTS ABOUT THE ORIGINS OF MANKIND MUST MAINTAIN NEUTRALITY BETWEEN
RELIGIOUS FAITHS AND BETWEEN RELIGION AND NON-RELIGION, AND TO PROVIDE THAT
CURRICULUM THAT DOES NOT MAINTAIN THE REQUIRED NEUTRALITY MUST BE REVISED OR
REPLACED AS SOON AS PRACTICABLE."

See the NCSE for more.

Posted by: Daniel Morgan on May 30, 2009 at 11:38 AM | PERMALINK

Had only the Greatest Generation guys and gals been required to add "under God" to their required elementary Pledge of Allegiance moments, why, they could have beaten those "Gott Mit Uns" belt buckle guys much faster. No wonder the First World War took so long, as well.

However, there must be a ton of money out there for some religious nutzos, as we just received a booklet from a mass mailing from Oklahoma which states the Catholic Church has made the mark of the beast for changing observance of religious services from Saturday to Sunday. So, anyone knowingly attending any religious service on Sunday has the Mark of the Beast upon their forehead. Ah, look forward to more news about 666.

Posted by: berttheclock on May 30, 2009 at 11:42 AM | PERMALINK

Bill Donohue of the Catholic League, oddly enough, will not oppose Sonia Sotomayor's Supreme Court nomination.

Jeez, is he feeling alright?

Posted by: martin on May 30, 2009 at 12:02 PM | PERMALINK

Bill "Archie Bunker" Donohue may be wishing that some of his views on Catholicism may kick in on the Roe v. Wade issue.

Posted by: berttheclock on May 30, 2009 at 12:05 PM | PERMALINK

"Bill Donohue of the Catholic League...quietly root(ing) for her (Sotomayor)" is a very scary thought.

Posted by: cwolf on May 30, 2009 at 1:09 PM | PERMALINK

Vows are such pesky things, always getting in the way when you're trying to have fun. At least he refused to be a hypocrite.

Celibacy had its day but should never have been mandatory...ergo, catholic lite. You are either Catholic, catholic lite...or one of 'them'.

Posted by: bjobotts on May 30, 2009 at 2:26 PM | PERMALINK

Put God into wall street first.

Too bad we can't trust in man...oops...man interprets the word....let God speak for himself.

Posted by: bjobotts on May 30, 2009 at 2:47 PM | PERMALINK

from wiki "The motto E Pluribus Unum ("from many, one") was approved for use on the Great Seal of the United States in 1782. It still appears on coins and currency, and was widely considered the national motto de facto. However, by 1956 it had not been established so by legislation as the official "national motto". The Congressional Record of 1956 reads: "At the present time the United States has no national motto. The committee deems it most appropriate that 'In God we trust' be so designated as U.S. national motto."

Posted by: mark on May 30, 2009 at 5:53 PM | PERMALINK

Another intersection of govt and church, as reported in yesterday's NYT. While I agree with you friends when they bring Liberty College to the attention of IRS, I think in this instance, the American Atheists were a tad over the top. Separation of govt and church doesn't mean that the govt gets to discriminate against churches. The city wanted the whole area spruced up, the churches being a part of the area, then it's only right that the churches share with parking lots in getting the cash.

By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Published: May 28, 2009

A federal appeals court said the City of Detroit did not violate the Constitution when it partly reimbursed churches for renovations before the 2006 Super Bowl and other major sporting events. The city created a development program in 2003 to reimburse up to half the costs of refurbishing downtown buildings and parking lots. Three churches received $737,000 of more than $11 million allocated for projects. The group American Atheists sued, claiming that the city could not include religious organizations in the program.



Posted by: exlibra on May 30, 2009 at 6:34 PM | PERMALINK

exlibra, yeah, on it's face, that's off the wall loony; comparable to insisting that the city not pave streets in front of churches.

Posted by: Disputo on May 31, 2009 at 5:25 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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