On Thursday, June 27, the U.S. House of Representatives passed H. Res.459, criticizing the 9th Circuit Appellate decision. I voted against this Resolution because I firmly believe that our pledge is recited daily in public schools throughout the nation as a show of allegiance to our country and our flag. As a former school teacher and principal, I am concerned that our children are asked to recite the pledge by rote at a young age, while not first learning the fundamental tenets and rights for which it stands.
We must remember that our nation was founded by immigrants and refugees seeking freedom of expression and from the oppression of a state religion. People continue to come here from all over the world to escape religious persecution and to embrace freedom of expression. Much of our nation’s strength comes from our diversity, including a growing religious diversity, that is illustrated in our own district. I agree with Thomas Jefferson, who stated, “I am for freedom of religion and against all maneuvers to bring about a legal ascendancy of one sect over another.” I am concerned that the phrase “under God” sends a subtle message that undermines the religious freedom and diversity of our great nation.
Also, your letter discussed HR2931 (Rep. Crane) and HR 2357 (Rep. Jones) – the “Houses of Worship Political Speech Protection Act.” Both of these acts seek to exempt religious organizations from restrictions on political activities. Under current laws, any organization that is conferred with a tax-exempt status by the IRS, including houses of worship, may not engage in any political activities. With few exceptions, this includes campaign activities and attempts to influence legislation. Obviously, this also means that churches, synagogues, temples, mosques and other places of worship may not use money drawn from its congregants, often given as a tithe or other ongoing percentage of one’s income, as contributions to candidates or political causes. This separation protects worshippers from being subjected to pressure from their religious leaders to support causes or candidates that they may not agree with.
The Houses of Worship Political Speech Protection Act has been referred to the House Committee on Ways and Means. I believe strongly in the provisions in our Constitution for separation of church and state, and believe some of the same principles apply in this instance. I will be sure to consider your thoughts on this matter should the bill come to the House floor for a vote.
Again, thank you for taking the time to express your views. Your views help shape the way I represent our district, and I value your opinions.
Member of Congress
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