Constitution is clear: US is not a Christian nation

Exactly what language in the U.S. Constitution does Newt Gingrich think “means the power comes from God to each one of you personally”? (“Gingrich: GOP must defeat Obama’s ‘secular, socialist’ values,” March 7)

Is it our Constitution’s complete lack of reference to any god or religious deity? Or its historically unprecedented preamble in which the authority for government is derived not from a higher power but from “We the People”?

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Now that Mr. Gingrich appears to be running for our nation’s highest office, he might want to do himself a favor and re-read our supreme legal document, which — despite his claims otherwise — clearly established the United States as a secular nation. We have no state religion, and our laws are made by elected officials, not clergy. The Constitution mentions religion only twice: to prevent Congress from making any laws “respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof” (First Amendment), and to ensure that there be no religious test for public office (Article VI). That’s it. Nowhere does it cite Mr. Gingrich’s — or anyone else’s — personal god as an authority in American government.

It’s appallingly hypocritical for Mr. Gingrich to claim that secular Americans “do not understand America” while he intentionally distorts and misrepresents our government’s founding document simply to score cheap political points with a religious constituency. In recent speeches, Gingrich has assaulted the secular character of our government while at the same time condemning the possibility of a theocratic regime in Egypt headed by the Muslim Brotherhood. Why does he think secular government is good for Egyptians but not Americans?

Of course, Mr. Gingrich is not the only likely GOP presidential contender who has made veiled calls for an American theocracy based on his particular brand of Christianity.

At the same Iowa event that Gingrich spoke at Monday, former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty said, “We need to be a country that turns toward God. Not a country that turns away from God.” Well, whose god is he referring to? Sixteen percent of Americans ascribe to no religion, and there are millions of Muslim, Hindu, Sikh and Buddhist Americans whose religious views do not include the same Judeo-Christian “God” that Pawlenty suggests should be forced on all citizens. Our population may be majority Christian, but as stated in the Treaty of Tripoli, signed by President John Adams in 1797, “the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion.”

Rather, the United States was founded on secular values, such as equality, democracy and religious liberty, designed to prevent Americans from imposing their personal religious views on one another — or on our government.

Misguided and historically inaccurate calls for a more theocratic America represent a threat to the very freedoms the Constitution granted to all Americans — Gingrich and Pawlenty included.

Washington, D.C. 


DeMint gets it wrong 
on “right to work”

From Kimberly Freeman Brown, 
executive director, American Rights 
at Work

Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., had it right when he said that right-to-work provides no rights and no work. Its purpose is to destroy labor unions and the freedom of collective bargaining. So it’s disappointing to see Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) launch the so-called National Right to Work Act when middle-class families can least afford it (‘Republicans introduce bill to give workers a choice on joining unions,’ March 8).

Sen. DeMint is passing off the bill as an economy-booster, but the facts tell a different story. A February 2011 study by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) found that wages in right-to-work states are 3.2 percent lower on average than in states without these laws.

Right-to-work is wrong for the economy, too. A recent report by Lonnie Stevans at Hofstra University found that these laws do not improve business conditions in right-to-work states. In fact, according to EPI, since Oklahoma passed right-to-work legislation in 2001, manufacturing employment has declined and more businesses have relocated out of Oklahoma to other states.

It’s time for our legislators to stop these frivolous attacks on their opponents and focus instead on finding real solutions to the problems facing everyday Americans.

Washington, D.C. 


America in need of a 
budget with morals

From William Zaccagnino

As a person of faith, I believe the moral test of any society is how it treats its poor and most vulnerable. 

Our federal budget should reflect our values and priorities. Legislators should consider how their actions will impact the most vulnerable people. 

Congress should oppose any budget proposal that increases military spending while cutting programs that benefit the poor, especially children. We need to support programs that support healthcare, family nutrition, education and international aid that literally save lives.

Our deficit is a moral issue, but how we reduce it is also a moral issue. If Congress is serious about the deficit, then it should cut military spending and corporate subsides to big business, end corporate tax loopholes and address long-term costs of healthcare and Social Security.

Alexandria, Va.