Atheists Denounce House 'Religion Resolution'

WASHINGTON, DC-- The Secular Coalition for America today denounced a resolution (H. RES. 789) introduced in the U.S. House by Stephen Fincher (TN-8) that attempts to “reaffirm the importance of religion in the lives of United States citizens” and makes reference to the country’s “Judeo-Christian heritage.”

Fincher’s resolution cites a number of cases of religious symbolism or religion being inserted into government, to bolster the resolution’s claim that the U.S. is a religious nation. Some examples include the adoption of “In God we Trust” as the national motto in 1956. The resolution also “rejects efforts to remove evidence of Judeo-Christian heritage and references to God from public structures and resources.”

“A resolution that ‘reaffirms the importance of religion’—specifically a Judeo-Christian religion—in the lives of Americans excludes the many Americans for whom religion is not important, or those who do not identify with a Judeo-Christian religion. This only serves to divide rather than unite Americans,” said Edwina Rogers, Executive Director of the Secular Coalition for America. “This resolution insinuates that because Christianity is the majority religion in the United States, the religion and its followers should be privileged by our government, but this logic is problematic – our Constitution is secular precisely to protect all Americans regardless of their religious beliefs or lack of religious beliefs.”

Additionally, the resolution points out that 32 percent of charitable donations went to religious organizations. The overwhelming majority—68 percent of charitable donations—went to charities not classified as religious—including international affairs, health, education, human services, the environment and arts—indicating that secular institutions contribute greatly to the civic character of the U.S. 

The resolution cites a 2007 survey from the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life survey that showed 92 percent of U.S. Citizens believe in God and 78.4 percent identify as Christian.  According to more recent statistics released by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public life, 16 -19  percent of U.S. citizens do not identify with any religion.

“This resolution attempts to cloud the issue by including statistics that indicate religious Americans are in the majority—in reality, it doesn’t matter if one hundred percent of the population is religious, that still does not change our nation’s founding principles,” Rogers said. “Our Constitution makes no reference to God and instead derives its power from ‘we the people’, our laws are made by politicians not clergy, and our First Amendment outlines a separation of religion and government that has consistently been upheld by our Supreme Court. Our government is secular—there are no two ways about it.”

The resolution also makes reference to the yearly appropriations by Congress for Congressional and military chaplains—an issue that Secular Coalition and member organization, the Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers, takes a stance against. Nontheistic service members do not have a nontheistic chaplain with whom they can discuss their personal values.

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