Nov. 16 2011 01:03 PM

A member of Congress misrepresents opinion of deceased justice to make a dubious point

Edwin Decker

On Nov. 1, Congress passed a non-binding resolution to reaffirm “In God We Trust” as the national motto.

There are two problems with this. The first, and most glaring, is that “In God We Trust” is a terrible motto. A proper national motto is something that’s agreeable to all citizens—a unifier—something like the Bahamas’ motto (Forward, Upward, Onward Together), or Equatorial Guinea’s (Unity, Peace, Justice), or Germany’s (Trying Real Hard Not to be Dicks Anymore).

The second, more problematic problem has nothing to do with the motto itself; rather, it’s the measure to affirm the motto. The resolution, sponsored by Rep. J. Randy Forbes (R-Va.), is “nonbinding”—which means it can’t be passed into law or enforced in any way. It’s a purely symbolic, wildly pointless waste of resources at a time when the country is going to Purgatory on a pogo stick.

When I become king of the United States, the second thing I will do (right after chaining all the Wall Street canker-suckers to the dungeon floor and sprinkling rat-nip on their genitals) is pass a binding resolution that prohibits Congress from sponsoring non-binding resolutions.

Not only is working on this resolution a ludicrous waste of time on its own merit, but this non-binding resolution has actually been notbound before—twice! It’s true. In God We Trust is already the official motto of the U.S. It was affirmed by Congress in 1956. Then it was reaffirmed in 2006 and re-reaffirmed three weeks ago, which raises two questions: How many times must something be affirmed before the affirmation sticks? And, why did Congress suddenly decide the motto needed re-reaffirming in the first place?

Explains Forbes on his website, “As our nation faces challenging times, it is appropriate for Members of Congress… to firmly declare our trust in God….”

Translation: At a time when the country is going to Stepford in a Studebaker, it’s appropriate for Congress to ignore impending doom and focus on redundant, token affirmations of our primitive devotion to an invisible man who lives in the sky with the hope that he’ll fix the economy.

Do you see why I can’t stand it when religious fanatics get control of our government—or worse, when government panders to patrio-religious, feelgood symbolism junkies? I mean, why stop at the motto? Why not re-reaffirm baseball as the official national pastime, or apple pie as the official pastry, or Mom as the official parental unit of America?:

As our nation faces challenging times, it is appropriate that Congress firmly declares our trust in Mom—that Mom be re-reaffirmed as the official parent of America—and that Dad can eat a bag of dicks because all he does is guzzle beer and devour Mom’s pie before anyone else can have a slice.

Another reason to re-re-affirm In God We Trust, Forbes claims, is because of a misunderstanding of the phrase “separation of church and state.”

“The words ‘separation of church and state’ do not appear in the U.S. Constitution” he writes, suggesting that the founders did not favor the concept. To support this theory, Forbes provides the following quote from a 1952 Supreme Court ruling, delivered by Justice William Orville Douglas: “The First Amendment does not say that in every and all respects there shall be a separation of Church and State.”

Wow! It’s bad enough the congressman had to go all the way back to 1952 to find a quote that supports this non-separation theory; but the quote doesn’t even support it. Not the whole, real, true quote. Forbes wildly (and probably willfully) misrepresented Justice Douglas’ intent. Yes, it’s true that in his written opinion, Douglas conceded that the words “separation of church and state” do not appear in the Constitution (they don’t), but he also said, “There cannot be the slightest doubt that the First Amendment reflects the philosophy that Church and State should be separated.”

Just breathe that in for a moment. A sitting member of Congress willfully mischaracterized the written opinion of a deceased Supreme Court Justice (I say “willfully” because the quote was excised with surgical precision) to support his unconstitutional theories.

Here’s another Douglas quote to which Forbes pointed as proof of a Supreme Court opposition to the church-state-separation concept.

“We find no constitutional requirement which makes it necessary for government to be hostile to religion.”

Well, no freaking duh, Dough-for-Brains. Of course there’s no constitutional requirement to be hostile to religion. The exact opposite is true. The U.S. Constitution respects, embraces and is highly protective of religion. That’s the reason it aspires to separate church and state. The Constitution loves religion so much—all religions—that it refuses to favor any. This way, if no specific religion is preferred, none can be marginalized, either.

And, goddamn, doesn’t it get tiring having to keep explaining that most basic constitutional concept to people in high political offices? When I become king, the fourth thing I am going to do (right after dumping the neutered corpses of the Wall Street blister-lickers into my hyena cage) is make a binding resolution that states that if you’re a member of the U.S. freaking Congress, and you don’t know how the First Amendment works, then we get to chain you up in the dungeon and have Keanu Reeves read the Constitution to you, over and over, until you start begging for the rat-nip treatment.

Write to and Edwin Decker blogs at Follow him on Twitter @edwindecker or find him on Facebook.