As you may recall, we brought you news last summer about a new legal challenge filed by the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF). Their focus: The recently-completed Capitol Visitor Center in Washington, D.C.
The problem: FFRF doesn't like the fact that the national motto, In God We Trust, and the words of the Pledge of Allegiance - which of course includes the word "God" - are engraved in the new center. The FFRF contends that it is a violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.
We have now filed a legal response to that lawsuit - a critical amicus brief representing 44 members of Congress. Our position is clear: The fact is that Congress acted appropriately and consistent with the Constitution with the inclusion of the national motto and the Pledge of Allegiance in the Capitol Visitor Center. These expressions echo the sentiments found in the Declaration of Independence and recognize the undeniable truth that our freedoms come from God.
The friend-of-the-court brief contends that this lawsuit should be dismissed.
Plaintiffs crusade, targeting of religious expression in the federal government, serves no purpose other than to waste judicial resources at a time in our Nations history when those resources are needed in cases involving real threats to American liberties, the brief asserts. Moreover, if Plaintiffs are successful, it will undoubtedly embolden further challenges to other religious expressions in government venues, including the several religious works of art and various religious inscriptions in the Capitol Complex, as well as the prayer rooms in House and Senate Office buildings.
We have strong support for our legal position among members of Congress. We teamed with Congressional Prayer Caucus Chairman Rep. Randy Forbes (R-VA) and 43 other members of the House and Senate. The lawmakers represented in our brief:
U.S. Representative Randy Forbes, U.S. Senators Jim DeMint, James Inhofe, and Roger Wicker, and U.S. Representatives Robert Aderholt, Todd Akin, Michele Bachmann, Roscoe Bartlett, Rob Bishop, Marsha Blackburn, Roy Blunt, John Boehner, John Boozman, Dan Burton, Eric Cantor, Mike Conaway, Virginia Foxx, Scott Garrett, Bob Goodlatte, Ralph Hall, Gregg Harper, Jeb Hensarling, Bob Inglis, Sam Johnson, Walter Jones, Jim Jordan, Steve King, John Kline, Doug Lamborn, Don Manzullo, Thaddeus McCotter, Patrick McHenry, Cathy McMorris Rodgers, Jeff Miller, Randy Neugebauer, Mike Pence, Joseph Pitts, John Shadegg, John Shimkus, Bill Shuster, Mark Souder, Zack Wamp, Joe Wilson, and Don Young.
(UPDATE - November 19, 2009: We have revised our amicus brief to include the names of six additional members of Congress - bringing to 50 (47 members of the House and 3 members of the Senate) the number of members of Congress we represent in our amicus brief. The additional members of Congress who have signed on to the brief: Representatives Rodney Alexander, Kevin McCarthy, Candice Miller, Jerry Moran, Ted Poe and Todd Tiahrt. We have filed the revised brief with the federal district court and the complete listing of the members of Congress represented is posted here.)
The fact is this lawsuit borders on frivolous and in our brief we argue strongly that both the national motto and Pledge of Allegiance accurately reflect the historical fact that our nation was founded on a belief in God and that the constitutionality of both is well established in case law.
You can read the ACLJ amicus brief here.
Further, the brief contends that the First Amendment does not compel the redaction of all references to God just to suit atheistic preferences. The brief states: While the First Amendment affords atheists complete freedom to disbelieve, it does not compel the federal judiciary to redact religious references in every area of public life in order to suit atheistic sensibilities.
This challenge is another misguided attempt to alter history and purge America of religious references. Were hopeful it will meet the same fate as other flawed challenges and be rejected by the court.
The brief was filed in U.S. District Court in Madison, Wisconsin and we will keep you posted on developments as this important case unfolds.
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