The Republican-dominated Idaho legislature has overwhelmingly passed a resolution to display the words “In God We Trust” just “above the chairs of the presiding officers” in each chamber. The State House voted 65-5 in favor of it last week while the State Senate approved it 29-3 (with three abstentions) yesterday.
House Concurrent Resolution 32 is nothing more than a loophole to inject the Christian God in the government while hiding behind the excuse that this is merely about patriotism because it’s our national motto.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Winder, R-Boise, said the intent of the legislation isn’t to promote or protect any particular religion. Rather, it’s to give lawmakers “a sense of why we’re here, a sense that we can look to other things in our world that we trust, and that we need to set a high standard while we’re here.”
If you need a daily reminder of why you’re in political office, then you need to find a different line of work. Even for them, though, it’s a bad excuse. Lawmakers aren’t in power to pay homage to their God. They’re in power to help the people they represent, and religion has nothing to do with that.
The few courageous people voting against this resolution understand that.
Sen. David Nelson, D-Moscow, was one of three senators to oppose the resolution.
“We are a government for the people of Idaho — all the people,” he said. “To me, putting the words ‘In God We Trust’ places a finger on the scales of government in favor of religious people who believe in a Christian god. What about the Jews, the Buddhists, the Native Americans, Muslims, seculars and atheists among many others? Some recognize a god, while others do not.
“One of my religion’s core principles is to respect the inherent worth and dignity of every person. This principle doesn’t lead me to support any religious message as part of our government. … While putting up these words doesn’t violate the letter of the (First Amendment), I believe it violates the spirit of the amendment and sends a message that we don’t govern impartially with respect to our citizens’ religious freedom. Putting these words in such a prominent place provides the wrong message.”
He’s absolutely right. He also knows that there’s not much anyone can do about it. Courts have routinely said that the religious motto isn’t a promotion of religion. That logic doesn’t have to make sense. But it’s also why Republicans are eager to push through this sort of Project Blitz bill whenever and wherever they can. No one can stop them.
The signs will be paid for through private donations, presumably from Christians who know damn well that this gesture is all just a big gift to their faith.
(Image via Shutterstock. Thanks to Brian for the link)