As we prepare to round the corner from 2008 to a new year in 2009, it goes without saying that we face many challenges. But one challenge that shouldn’t get lost amidst the inevitable focus on the economy and our national security is the role of God and religion in our national life.
Protecting our religious heritage and belief from those who would deny it or suppress it is a good in and of itself, of course. But the preservation of faith in our public life also bears on how we view the proper role of government in our lives, how we approach the education of our children – indeed, how we expect to survive as a democratic republic.
“Where There is No Religion, There Will Be No Morals”
On this question, the American Founders were explicit: Virtue is a necessary pre-condition for democracy, and religion is a necessary pre-condition for virtue. In his Farewell Address, George Washington famously said that “reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.” Benjamin Rush said simply, “Where there is no religion, there will be no morals.”
These are words to reflect on as we prepare to begin 2009. America is on the precipice of change — politically and economically. How we will negotiate this change and what kind of nation will emerge will be greatly influenced by whether or not we take George Washington’s and Benjamin Rush’s words to heart.
To that end, if you read nothing else this new year, take a moment to read this report by Rick Tyler of Renewing American Leadership on the historical inaccuracies in the new Capitol Visitors Center.
Four Years Late, $350 Million Over Budget, and Historically Inaccurate
Tyler uncovers the shameful fact that, in addition to being four years late in opening and over $350 million over budget, the new Capitol Visitors Center gives Americans a biased, unbalanced, incomplete and in many cases inaccurate accounting of our history — and of religion’s role in our history.
For example, a Visitor’s Center display initially incorrectly stated that our nation’s motto is “E pluribus unum” when in fact, since 1956 our national motto has been “In God We Trust.”
In addition, the Capitol Visitors Center displays overlook the extent to which the Capitol was used for religious services in early U.S. history. Absent is any mention that several presidents attended church services at the Capitol, including Thomas Jefferson, the secularists’ exhibit A in the war against religion as the (misinterpreted) author of the supposed “wall of separation” of church and state.
Rick Tyler’s report is both illuminating and troubling. You can read it all at www.newt.org.
I will have much more to say about the fight to preserve our religious heritage and the many other challenges that face America in 2009. I look forward to hearing your thoughts as well.
Until then, may you and your family have a happy, safe, prosperous — and blessed — New Year.
P.S. Your Donation Can Make a Difference: While thinking of the blessings you have had this year, you can bless others for 2009. The Learning Makes a Difference (LMD) Foundation has proven that Learn Earn & Achieve improves students’ performance. This program, conceived by me and led by my daughter Jackie Cushman at the LMD Foundation, is now beginning Phase 2, blueprinting. You can be a part of this innovative math and science tutoring initiative by making a gift to support this program. Your donation will have a tremendous impact: A $70 gift pays for a student for one week, a $220 gift pays for a teacher for a week. ALL gifts are important and appreciated!