The National World War II Memorial opened in Washington, D.C. in 2004 and it’s a wonderful tribute to those who risked and gave their lives for our country.
But you know what it’s missing?
Two bills have now worked their way through Congress — H.R. 2175, introduced by Rep. Bill Johnson (R-OH), and S. 1044, introduced by Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) — and they aim to install a prayer plaque somewhere in the area of the monument with the words that President Franklin D. Roosevelt delivered on D-Day, a portion of which is below:
Almighty God: Our sons, pride of our Nation, this day have set upon a mighty endeavor, a struggle to preserve our Republic, our religion, and our civilization, and to set free a suffering humanity.
Lead them straight and true; give strength to their arms, stoutness to their hearts, steadfastness in their faith.
And, O Lord, give us Faith. Give us Faith in Thee; Faith in our sons; Faith in each other; Faith in our united crusade. Let not the keenness of our spirit ever be dulled. Let not the impacts of temporary events, of temporal matters of but fleeting moment let not these deter us in our unconquerable purpose.
That’s what the “World War II Memorial Prayer Act” intends to make permanent at the memorial.
It’s just more red meat for the GOP’s Christian base. Yes, Roosevelt delivered the speech, but his religious platitudes don’t represent all the soldiers who fought in the war.
The Center For Inquiry, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, and six other organizations wrote letters to the Senate and House over the past year urging committee members to reconsider this idea:
This bill, however, shows a lack of respect for this great diversity. It endorses the false notion that all veterans will be honored by a war memorial that includes a prayer that proponents characterize as reflecting our country’s “Judeo-Christian heritage and values.” In fact, Department of Defense reports show that nearly one-third of all current members of the U.S. Armed Forces identify as non-Christian. Likewise, many of our veterans and citizens come from a variety of religious backgrounds, or have no religious belief; thus, it is inappropriate to honor the “power of prayer” in a national memorial.
None of that seems to have worked. Earlier this month, S. 1044 passed in the Senate, and the House approved it earlier this week. All it needs now is President Obama‘s signature.
Only 12 Democrats had the guts to oppose the bill and they deserve your thanks:
- Mike Honda (D-CA)
- Judy Chu (D-CA)
- Hank Johnson (D-GA)
- Tammy Duckworth (D-IL)
- Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR)
- Beto O’Rourke (D-TX)
- Bobby Scott (D-VA)
- Mark Pocan (D-WI)
- Niki Tsongas (D-MA)
- Katherine Clark (D-MA)
- Keith Ellison (D-MN)
- Jerrold Nadler (D-NY)
(“Unaffiliated” Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) voted Yes.)
The Freedom From Religion Foundation is urging people to call or write the White House and urge Obama to oppose the bill. They even offer a template for what you can say (though you should really put it in your own words):
… The bill sends a message to all of the many atheists in foxholes that their service to their country is less appreciated than that of their religious counterparts. Atheists and service members with no religious preference make up over 23% of the military. S. 1044 marginalizes nonreligious service members and belittles their service.
On November 3, 2011, Robert Abbey, the director of the Bureau of Land Management, told a congressional subcommittee: “The Department [of the Interior] strongly believes that the World War II Memorial, as designed, accomplishes its legislated purpose to honor the members of the Armed Forces who served in World War II and to commemorate the participation of the United States in that conflict. It should not be altered in the manner suggested by [S. 1044].” S. 1044 is an unnecessary and divisive bill intended to inject religious rhetoric into what is otherwise an inclusive, powerful memorial to those who fought and died for our country.
Obama will undoubtedly sign the bill. That’s too bad. Those soldiers didn’t risk their lives so that the U.S. government could promote the Christian faith.