Council for Secular Humanism campaigns against H.R. 888, “American Religious History Week”
February 14, 2008
Last month, shortly before the Congressional holiday recess, Rep. Forbes of Virginia introduced for consideration House Resolution 888, which designates the first week in May as "American Religious History Week." Although the resolution would not have the force of law even if adopted, it nevertheless poses a serious threat to our core values of separation of church and state and freedom of conscience, as well as to the fundamental principle that public policy should be based on secular considerations and not religious dogma.
The resolution is intended to express the official view of the House of Representatives about our nation's history and will be cited by all those who try to impose religious values on the rest of the country, whether through litigation, legislation, or otherwise. The resolution specifically states that our "educational resources" should reflect the supposed "fact" that religion provides "the inseparable foundation" for this country's "legal systems and societal structures," so you can be sure that those on the religious right will fight to have this misrepresentation of history taught in our schools. It will also provide a basis for arguing that the Ten Commandments should be displayed in public places and that we should "acknowledge" our religious foundations with officially sponsored prayer and religious ceremonies such as the Pledge of Allegiance.
The resolution should not be considered in isolation. The proposed resolution forms part of the strategy that the religious right has followed in recent years of trying to give a veneer of validity to government-sponsored religious practices by arguing that these practices simply reflect our heritage rather than advance religion. Obviously, to the extent that the religious right can cite support for their distorted version of history in official proclamations of Congress, their claim gains more credibility.
This resolution distorts U.S. history and shamelessly attempts to portray religion as the foundation for our government and institutions. If we ignore this resolution and allow it to be adopted, this historical fantasy may become current reality. The resolution contains pages of misleading references to the views of our founders. If you have trouble deciding whether to take action against the proposed resolution, please consider the following accurate quotation from one of our founders, James Madison: In his famous Memorial and Remonstrance to the Virginia Assembly in 1785, in which he urged the Assembly to reject a bill that would provide funding for teachers of Christianity, Madison stated that "it is proper to take alarm at the first experiment on our liberties." CSH agrees. House Resolution 888 would set a dangerous precedent and it must be rejected.
To participate in the campaign, go to http://ga1.org/secular_humanism/notice-description.tcl?newsletter_id=7544951&r =