A resolution that attacks the U.S. Supreme Court for its church-state rulings and declares that the Founding Fathers “recognized a Christian God and used the principles afforded to us by Him as the founding principles of our nation” has sparked controversy in Missouri.
House Concurrent Resolution No. 13, introduced by State Rep. David Sater, a Republican, states that Missouri lawmakers “should protect the majority’s right to express their religious beliefs” and should “stand with the majority of our constituents and exercise the common sense that voluntary prayer in public schools and religious displays on public property are not a coalition of church and state.”
Such actions, the resolution goes on to say, reveal “the positive role that Christianity has played in this great nation of ours, the United States of America.”
Although resolutions do not have the force of law, this one has stirred up quite a hornet’s nest.
“I’m sure Rep. Sater is coming from a place of sincere and strongly held faith and you can’t fault him for that,” Karen Aroesty, regional director of the Anti-Defamation League, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “But this would disenfranchise a whole bunch of people who are his constituents…. Even if this doesn’t pass, the harm is substantial.”
Appearing on ABC’s “World News Tonight” March 3, Americans United Executive Director Barry W. Lynn warned that the resolution could lead to laws codifying its extreme view.
“First comes a resolution, then come laws that define the Christian majority as the people who get all the special benefits.,” Lynn said.
Lynn, a United Church of Christ minister, was by no means the only religious leader to criticize the resolution. The Rev. Timothy L. Carson, senior minister at Webster Groves Christian Church in Glendale, Mo., called the resolution “an atrocity” and added, “Thomas Jefferson would be rolling in his grave.”
Americans United noted that the resolution also promotes inaccurate history. Far from establishing a “Christian nation,” the founders wanted a republic that welcomed people of all faiths and deliberately wrote a secular constitution and a First Amendment that separates church and state.
AU pointed out that in 1823, James Madison, the father of the Constitution, wrote, “The settled opinion here is that religion is essentially distinct from Civil Govt. and exempt from its cognizance; that a connection between them is injurious to both….”