Religious Freedom Group, GOP Seek Dismissal of Lawsuit Banning References to God at Capitol Visitors Center

November 16, 2009 - 7:26 PM
A conservative civil liberties group is urging the dismissal of a lawsuit by an atheist group that wants to remove engravings of "In God We Trust" and "under God" from the Pledge of Allegiance from a display in the U.S. Capitol Visitors Center.
(CNSNews.com) – A conservative civil liberties group is urging the dismissal of a lawsuit by an atheist group that wants to remove engravings of "In God We Trust"  (the national motto) and "under God" (from the Pledge of Allegiance) from a display in the U.S. Capitol Visitors Center.

The American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) has filed an amicus brief in federal court on behalf of itself and 44 Republicans in the Senate and House seeking dismissal of the lawsuit. The brief argues that neither reference to God violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment and that the lawsuit “borders on frivolous.”
 
“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,” Jay Sekulow, chief counsel for ACLJ said in a press release issued on Monday.
 
“These expressions echo the sentiments found in the Declaration of Independence and recognize the undeniable truth that our freedoms come from God,” he added.
 
“This challenge is another misguided attempt to alter history and purge America of religious references,” Sekulow said. “We’re hopeful it will meet the same fate as other flawed challenges and be rejected by the court.”
 
Rep. Randy Forbes (R-Va.), chairman of the Congressional Prayer Caucus and one of the 44 members of Congress named in the brief, said that the lawsuit is an effort to erase the nation’s religious heritage.
 
“It shows just how extreme these groups’ agenda is,” Forbes told CNSNews.com. “They’ve tried to stamp out every vestige of faith in America.”
 
He said the role religion played in shaping the nation is clear from one of its most important founding documents, which promises the right to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
 
“The Declaration of Independence says those rights came from the Creator,” Forbes said. “If those rights came from the state, then the state can take them away.”
 
The lawsuit, filed in July by the Freedom From Religion Foundation in Madison, Wis., where the group is based, says that Congressional acts added “In God We Trust” to U.S. currency and also legislated “under God” into the Pledge of Allegiance.
 
The lawsuit states that these references to God in the Visitors Center “will give actual and apparent government endorsement and advancement of religion,” while excluding nonreligious Americans.
 
Read Complaint 09-CV-439
 
But the ACLJ brief argues that the national motto and the Pledge of Allegiance accurately reflect the historical fact that the United States was founded on a belief in God and that the constitutionality of both is well established in case law.
 
The brief also states that atheists are free not to believe in God under the First Amendment.
 
 “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,” the brief states.
 
Despite the lawsuit, “In God We Trust” was unveiled at the visitors’ center on Sept. 30, and the Pledge of Allegiance will be completed in the coming weeks.
 
“This was accomplished due to the efforts of so many individuals in Congress and across the country who were willing to stand up on behalf of our nation’s religious heritage,” Forbes said on the day “In God We Trust” was unveiled at the visitors’ center.
 
“Thousands of visitors will walk through the center each day. The efforts of the individuals that have joined in this issue have enabled those visitors to experience a more accurate depiction of our nation’s heritage written in stone.
 
“This win should serve as an example to Americans all across the country that because we believe, we stand, and because we stand, we can make a difference,” Forbes said.
 
The other Republicans who joined the brief include: Sens. Jim DeMint, James Inhofe and Roger Wicker, and Reps. 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.