Members of Congress regularly boost their reelection prospects in positive ways like voting in line with the will of their district and participating in the passage of landmark legislation. But we know all too well that they also engage in negative campaigning, lambasting their political opponents and even scapegoating minorities for problems that we must grapple with as a community. Another pernicious habit that appears to be getting more prevalent is the attempt to co-opt religious belief for political benefit.
Some of the many examples include a resolution to reaffirm "In God We Trust" as the national motto and endorse its usage in all public buildings, public schools and other government institutions, and a resolution expressing support for prayer at school board meetings. And just this week Congress passed a bill, the World War II Memorial Prayer Act of 2013, which will place a plaque at the World War II monument in Washington, D.C., "with the words that President Franklin D. Roosevelt prayed with the United States on June 6, 1944, the morning of D-Day."
The prayer being referred to here mentions how "[o]ur sons ... this day have set upon a mighty endeavor, a struggle to preserve our Republic, our religion, and our civilization." While some soldiers may have been doing just that, there were certainly other soldiers who did not believe in a god, did not share the same religion, or simply weren't fighting to preserve it.
Most government officials are well aware that working on these bills is a waste of valuable time since they accomplish little more than alienating Americans who subscribe to minority faiths and philosophies. In fact, there are many important bills that still await passage, such as the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (which would prevent discrimination against employees based on their sexual orientation or gender identity) and legislation that would raise the minimum wage. But as some Americans admit that the religious beliefs of a candidate impact their vote, many politicians see no downside to embellishing the importance of their faith and engaging in religious preferentialism.
It is important to note that there are politicians who categorically refuse to endorse religiously motivated bills or other pieces of legislation that would weaken the separation between church and state. And, of course, there are some evangelical "true believers" who genuinely wish to see their religious tenets enshrined into law no matter how it impacts the rights of others. But both of these types of politicians are in the minority.
Unfortunately, the politicians whose religious credentials run only skin-deep have yet to be called out for co-opting their beliefs for political gain, which means that this practice of pushing unneeded and sectarian legislation won't end anytime soon. What's needed is for average Americans to stand up and not accept their false declarations of religiosity, respond negatively to their religious pandering, and insist that they instead focus on what actually matters.
It's past time that this shameful act is ended, before government institutions become even more reviled by an American public that recognizes how Congress is increasingly inefficient and disconnected from the issues they care about. Instead of disingenuously emphasizing beliefs that seem to help politicians in the short term but estrange Americans from their neighbors, Congress should put aside their faux faith once and for all.