Center for American Progress

Offending American and Christian Principles: The Public Expression of Religion Act of 2005

Offending American and Christian Principles: The Public Expression of Religion Act of 2005

This legislation would effectively strip some victims of blatant religious discrimination of the right to seek justice.

I am instilled with a strong sense of Christian principles, values, and theology. It’s hard not to be, with a father, grandfather, great-grandfather, uncles, and cousins who are evangelical ministers. Through this lens I view the world, and through this lens I view the self-centered, politically expedient, and self-righteous policies and rhetoric that occupy some places in the current White House and Congress.

The latest such policy set to be voted on in the House of Representatives, just in time for the mid-term election, is the Public Expression of Religion Act of 2005. This cleverly titled legislation introduced by Representative John Hostettler (R-Indiana) is touted as a measure to protect (particularly Christian) lawmakers from expressing their beliefs in a public forum—even if they violate Establishment Clause precedent—with limited legal retribution.

In reality, the legislation would effectively strip victims of blatant religious discrimination who are powerless and/or unable to afford to pay for a lawyer of the right to seek justice, even if their claim prevails in a court of law. The denial of attorney’s fee awards will make citizens unable to afford the expense of litigation when they are seeking protection of certain constitutional rights.

Exodus, 23:6 states, “do not deny justice to your poor people in their lawsuits.” The Public Expression of Religion Act roundly contradicts this fundamental biblical tenet.

The primary purpose of separating church and state is to assure that freedoms—including religion—are not compromised. Billy Graham has stated, “To tie the Gospel to any political system, secular program, or society is wrong and will only serve to divert the Gospel. The Gospel transcends the goals and methods of any political system or any society, however good it may be.”

The last thing Christians want is to witness the watering down of their fundamental principles of the faith so that certain individuals, in the short term, can win political points before an election.

Christians may be in the majority, but this does not give Christians a mandate to compromise the rights of religious minorities. The main tenet by which we judge establishing democracies in places such as Iraq is the amount of security and freedom religious, ethnic, and racial minority communities enjoy. Do we really want a law that compromises the fundamental tenants of democracy and squelches minority rights? If we are demanding minority rights abroad, we need to uphold those rights at home.

The Public Expression of Religion Act of 2005 is an offensive affront to Christian theology and the fundamental American principles of freedom and justice. The Act is simply another ploy, during an election season, to pander to Christians in the name of Christianity. America and Christianity are better than this, and neither should allow itself to be forced to devolve by a handful of opportunistic politicians.

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