ACTION ALERT: Stop revisionist Christian nation House Resolution 888

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Update: Thanks to your e-mails and our lobbying, this resolution is not currently moving forward. In April, Randy Forbes (R-VA) sent a letter to Henry Waxman (D-CA), Chair of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, urging action on the resolution. He has also sought support from the conservative religious House "Values Action Team," and as of May 12, 2008 there are 84 co-sponsors. Thus far committee leadership has not succumbed to pressure to move this resolution to the House floor. If you have not contacted your representative to oppose H.Res. 888, please do so now.

Jan. 11 - Flush with last year's success in passing H.Res. 847, "Recognizing the importance of Christmas and the Christian Faith," Christian nationalists -- those who would have the United States be governed as a Christian theocracy -- are pushing H.Res. 888, another resolution which promotes a false and distorted Christian nation reinterpretation of our history. Generally, we do not take action regarding resolutions because they are ceremonial in nature and express the non-binding opinion of one chamber. They do not have the force of law.

However, this resolution is so outrageous that YES votes -- even with its ceremonial form -- would send a dangerous message to history and civics educators throughout the United States. Teaching an unbiased account of our nation's founding and its governance will be curtailed; in its place supporters of this resolution clearly call for a revised history of the United States as a Christian nation.

Additionally, the resolution rejects constitutional requirements that government not establish religion. It calls on "our Nation's public buildings and educational resources" to be permitted to spread its specific revisionist history.

Rather than go into the tortured account of history in the 75 "whereas" paragraphs of the resolution, the Secular Coalition for America advises those who would like a more in-depth analysis of the lies and distortions being taught by Christian nationalists to read Why the Religious Right is Wrong About Separation of Church and State by Secular Coalition for America advisory board member Rob Boston. While there are certainly more recent books on the subject, Boston's book is specifically geared towards consideration of the type of revisionist history perpetuated by revisionist "historians" such as David Barton. Much of H.Res. 888’s "whereas" information comes directly from Barton's ridiculous assertions.

We have seen the religious right attack science education in order to impose their theological beliefs on public school science curriculum. This is the first official attempt to encourage theological beliefs to interfere with accurate education about our nation's history.

Specifically, the resolution

  • "affirms the rich spiritual and diverse religious history of our Nation's founding and subsequent history, including up to the current day"

    A truly complete look at our nation's religious history would include religious persecution. It would include the physical violence resulting from the imposition of Protestant theology in public schools. (See: Ellery's Protest by Stephen Solomon, recounting the problems historically caused by public school prayer and describing the brave fight to end these practices by Secular Coalition for America advisory board member Ellery Schempp.)

    Such a history "including up to the current day" would include anti-Catholic, anti-atheist, and anti-Semitic activities. It would include the fact that our motto at the founding of our nation was e pluribus unum ("out of many, one") and the truly nefarious purpose behind changing that motto in later years. It would include the use of public school children to separate us based on who believes we are under a god and who does not.

    It would include nontheistic Americans as well as other nonChristians. It would specify the differences between the deistic beliefs of many of our founders, and contemporary Christianity.

    The Secular Coalition for America welcomes historical literacy; the history described in this first affirmation leaves out a tremendous part of our religious history, focusing instead on a revisionist view of an always positive, specifically Christian identity.

  • "recognizes that the religious foundations of faith on which America was built are critical underpinnings of our Nation's most valuable institutions and form the inseparable foundation for America's representative processes, legal systems, and societal structures"

    The belief that "religious foundations of faith" are necessary for civil government was rejected by the founders when they produced a Constitution free of the mention of any god or gods. In the First Amendment to the Constitution, these founders further protected Americans from government establishment of religion and government interference with their private free exercise of religion and beliefs of conscience.

    When those who don't hold religious foundations of faith serve on juries, provide witness testimonies in court, or are sworn into elected offices, our U.S. Constitution protects their rights by prohibiting religious tests. Our nation has recognized that those of us without "religious foundations of faith" are capable of supporting America's representative processes, legal systems, and societal structures -- based not on a god-belief, but on reason.

  • "rejects, in the strongest possible terms, any effort to remove, obscure, or purposely omit such history from our Nation's public buildings and educational resources"

    This paragraph is clearly an attempt to encourage the courts not to enforce the U.S. Constitution. When the U.S. Supreme Court decides that public display of a religious symbol on government property is constitutional, it has determined that such a display is being presented from a historical viewpoint (generally amidst symbols from many other perspectives, both religious and secular). When the U.S. Supreme Court decides that public display of a religious symbol on government property is unconstitutional, they find that the way the display is presented constitutes a government endorsement of religion.

    For Congress to suggest curtailment of any attempt to uphold this constitutional distinction -- to give special government endorsement to "such history" (i.e., the Christian nationalist history recounted in this resolution) -- insults the very purpose of the judicial system, the separation of powers, and the Bill of Rights. We must never agree to allow any majority religion (or minority religion, for that matter) to be outside the limitations of the Bill of Rights.

  • "expresses support for designation of a [sic] 'American Religious History Week' every year for the appreciation of and education on America's history of religious faith"

    As mentioned above, the Secular Coalition for America would oppose the imposition of the revisionist history proposed in this resolution as the referenced education. A well-rounded, fact-based, unbiased, inclusive religious history of the United States would be a welcome change from the type of misrepresentations throughout H.Res. 888.

    However, even if we were to see truly inclusive "religious/historical literacy," it would have to include the extensive contributions of nontheistic Americans and appreciate our part in the history of the United States. Limiting such a history week to only a history of faith is obviously meant to leave out the significant contributions of Freethinkers (the historical identifier often used to refer to nontheistic Americans).

TAKE A STAND. Below is a sample letter to send to your member of Congress to stop this resolution. Please feel free to adapt it to your voice and provide additional information of importance to you. (New to the Secular Coalition for America? In submitting this letter to Congress from our Web site, you agree to receive mail from the Secular Coalition for America and its member organizations. Thanks for taking action, and welcome to our constituency.)


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