Freedom From Religion Foundation, a state/church watchdog and the
nation's largest association of atheists and agnostics, filed a federal
lawsuit today to stop the prominent engraving of "In God We Trust" and
the religious Pledge of Allegiance at the Capitol Visitor Center in
The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in the western district of Wisconsin in the courtroom of Judge Barbara Crabb.
week, the House and the Senate passed resolutions directing the
Architect of the Capitol to engrave "In God We Trust" and the Pledge of
Allegiance in prominent places in the Capitol Visitor Center, which is
"the entrance for the thousands of tourists who visit the Capitol every
day." The engraving project is expected to cost up to $150,000, a
figure attributed to U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., the Senate sponsor.
had threatened to hold up the opening of the Capitol Visitor Center
last December, because he said the Center failed to recognize the
purportedly integral role of religion in our federal government. DeMint
said the cost of the mandated engraving would correct the alleged
historical whitewash of the original design, welcome God back into the
Center and highlight the "all important relationship between faith and
freedom in America."
Rep. Steve King,
R-Iowa, claimed that without the engravings of "In God We Trust" and
the Pledge of Allegiance, the Visitor Center would reflect an effort
"to scrub references to America's Christian heritage" and to eradicate
"the role of Christianity in America."
Madison, Wis.-based Foundation, with 13,500 members, including members
in every state and in the District of Columbia, is an organizational
plaintiff, along with taxpayers and Foundation Co-Presidents Dan Barker
and Annie Laurie Gaylor.
suit names Stephen Ayers, acting Architect of the Capitol, who is
responsible for the U.S. Capitol Complex, including the Capitol Visitor
Center. The Foundation's legal Complaint points out that the Center is
"conceived as an extension of the Capitol rather than a stand-alone
facility; the Capitol Visitor Center is intended to be and is the sole
point of entry to the seat of American government."
Complaint notes that the selection of "In God We Trust" as a motto, and
the insertion of "under God" into the formerly secular Pledge of
Allegiance, were both adopted belatedly in the 1950s during the Cold
War. The godly motto, adopted in 1956, did not appear upon paper
currency until 1957.
The pledge was tampered with by Congress in 1954, after generations of
schoolchildren had learned the original, godless version composed in
1892. Both changes were the result of religious lobbying. The
Congressional Report accompanying the 1954 pledge act, which openly
disapproved of atheism, read: "The inclusion of God in the pledge . . .
would serve to deny the atheistic and materialistic concepts of
Foundation Complaint said the Congressional appropriations "will give
actual and apparent government endorsement and advancement of
religion," while excluding nonreligious Americans.
'In God We Trust' excludes and treats as outsiders the millions of
adult Americans, including as many as 15% of all adults, who are not
religious, i.e., atheists, agnostics, skeptics and freethinkers, none
of whom possesses a belief in a god; the mandated language diminishes
nonbelievers by making god-belief synonymous with citizenship."
lawsuit seeks a judgment declaring the Congressional directive
unconstitutional and an order enjoying the defendant from engraving "In
God We Trust" and the Pledge of Allegiance in the Capitol Visitor