By Simon Brown
It seems there is no limit to the minute, inane issues that get the Religious Right all hot and bothered.
On Feb. 6, 36 members of Congress -- including Congressional Prayer Caucus Co-chair Rep. Randy Forbes (R-Va.) --sent a letter to Air Force Chief of Staff General Norton Schwartz in protest of the removal of "God" from the Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office (RCO) logo.
In their letter, Forbes and his allies said “The action taken by the RCO suggests that all references to God, regardless of their context, must be removed from the military. We ask that you reverse this perplexing decision.”
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The logo, which was recently altered thanks to a complaint from the Military Association of Atheists and Free Thinkers, contained the motto Opus Dei Cum Pecunia Alienum Efficemus (Doing God's Work with Other People's Money). The motto is now Miraculi Cum Pecunia Alienum Efficemus (Doing Miracles with Other People's Money).
I’m not much of a Latin scholar, but I’m glad the Air Force changed the motto. This was an affront to church-state separation, plus it was kind of weird. Apparently the motto had been an inside joke for years, but I don’t think it’s especially funny.
For some reason, religious mottos have been a big issue lately in Congress, especially for Forbes. If you recall, the Virginia Republican was the one who led the crusade in the U.S. House of Representatives in November to have “In God We Trust” reaffirmed as the official motto of this country, even though absolutely no one had suggested it wasn’t the motto.
Doesn’t Forbes have anything better to do? He’s so busy making sure that the word “God” is attached to every motto in the United States that he must not have time for much else – like helping fix the economy.
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Forbes said in November that he’s out to end “a disturbing trend of inaccuracies and omissions, misunderstandings of church and state, rogue court challenges and efforts to remove God from the public domain by unelected bureaucrats.”
Far more disturbing than the horror stories Forbes is spreading are his efforts to inject religion into as many aspects of public life as possible. His duty is to uphold the Constitution. Instead, he’s ignoring it.
If I were able to sit down with Forbes, I’d have just one question for him – who is hurt by having “God” removed from an official U.S. military motto?
Putting God’s name on the motto of a government-funded institution is deeply offensive to nonbelievers, those who believe in many gods, those who believe in the Goddess, those who refer to their deity or deities by another name and, frankly, anyone else who appreciates church-state separation.
Forbes and his allies need to understand that they are wading into deeply divisive ideological matters at the expense of doing the jobs they were elected to do. It’s time they refocus their energy on helping the citizens of the United States in a meaningful way, rather than taking offense at a change to an insignificant motto.