Here we go again.
U.S. Rep. Randy Forbes (R-Va.) has re-introduced a misleading and pseudo-historical resolution that purports to honor the role of religion in America. Forbes, a frequent booster of Religious Right causes, wants Congress to designate the first week in May “Spiritual Heritage Week.”
Forbes’ resolution is studded with phony Religious Right “history.” It echoes the “Christian nation” line often peddled by theocratic organizations but fails to do justice to the true story of religious freedom in this country.
This is Forbes’ second attempt at promoting H.Res. 397. Last year’s effort fared poorly in Congress, whose members rightly believed they had better things to do than endorse bad history peddled by Religious Right extremists. This year’s version deserves to meet the same fate.
The problem with resolutions such as this is that they cherry pick history. For example, Forbes’ resolution claims that the Constitutional Convention placed “a religious punctuation mark at the end of the Constitution” by using the phrase “in the Year of our Lord.” It says nothing about the much more relevant fact that the First Amendment bans establishments of religion and bars “religious tests” for public office.
Similarly, the resolution notes that for some years Congress printed copies of The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth for new members. It does not mention that this book, also called the “Jefferson Bible,” is Thomas Jefferson’s edit of the New Testament, with all reference to Jesus’ divinity and claims of his miracles excised. (Yet Forbes seems to think this is evidence we are a “Christian nation”!)
Other claims in the resolution, such as “In God We Trust” on dollars and “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance, are of recent vintage. They say more about Americans’ fondness for watered-down “civil religion” than they do our spiritual heritage.
The fact is, America does have a proud spiritual heritage. We have a heritage of many religions coming to these shores and being welcomed. We have a heritage of people being free to adopt a faith, shed a faith or renounce all faiths. We have a heritage of people of many religions and none living together in peace, free from sectarian division and religious war.
We have these things because of the wall of separation between church and state. That’s a heritage worth celebrating.
How about it, Rep. Forbes?