The Constitution is very clear about the relationship that Congress is supposed to have with religion: Hands off neutrality. “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion,” the first sentence of the first amendment in the Bill of Rights states. That means that Congress isn’t only prohibited from establishing religion, but that it can’t even make a law with regard to the establishment of religion.
Yet H.RES.1358, introduced on Monday by Democratic Congressman Heath Shuler into the House of Representatives, is clearly such a law. The law is a resolution with an active clause that reads,
“Resolved, That the House of Representatives honors the life of the Reverend Billy Graham on the occasion of his 90th birthday and recognizes his decades of public service and his commitment to furthering the faith of Christians around the world.”
To support this clause, the resolution praises Reverend Billy Graham’s religious work:
- “Whereas Billy Graham has provided religious advice and counsel to Presidents…”
- “Whereas Billy Graham has personally reached more people through his evangelism than any other preacher in history…”
- “Whereas Billy Graham embodies the message conveyed in scripture in Mark 16:15, `Go ye into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature’…”
- “Whereas Billy Graham committed himself to Jesus Christ at the age of 16 and was ordained in 1939…”
If H. RES. 1358 merely gave official congressional recognition to Billy Graham’s public works, there wouldn’t be a constitutional problem (although there still would be good reason to question whether the resolution were worthwhile – the resolution doesn’t mention questionable parts of Billy Graham’s work, like how he preached anti-semitism to President Richard Nixon, for example). There is nothing inherently wrong in Congress recognizing the secular public works of peple who happen to be religious.
The problem is in the way that this resolution provides the official recognition and sanction of Congress for Billy Graham’s religious practice and promotion of Christianity. Congress has no place passing legislation respecting that kind of activity. Americans ought to judge for themselves whether one religion is worthwhile, not have Congress lecture them on the subject.
The members of the House of Representatives who support this unconstitutional resolution along with Congressman Shuler are Democrats and Republicans, bipartisan in their lack of wisdom and disregard for the Constitution. Their names are: