The American Center for Law and Justice has filed a legal response to a lawsuit that opposes religious engravings in the Capitol Visitor Center in Washington.
In the amicus brief, the ACLJ asks the U.S. District Court for the western district of Wisconsin to dismiss claims that the use of "In God We Trust" as the national motto is a violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.
"Plaintiffs' crusade, targeting religious expression in the federal government, serves no purpose other than to waste judicial resources at a time in our Nation's history when those resources are needed in cases involving real threats to American liberties," the legal group asserts.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation, a state/church watchdog and an association of atheists and agnostics, filed a lawsuit in July to stop the engraving of "In God We Trust" and the Pledge of Allegiance at the Capitol Visitor Center.
During an initial tour of the center, before it opened in December 2008, some members of Congress were irked that there were no prominent references to America's religious heritage. Congressman Dan Lungren (R-Calif.) introduced legislation in May 2009 directing the Architect of the Capitol to engrave the two expressions at the entrance of the center.
The House and Senate passed the resolution, which also corrected mistakes in the center such as misidentifying the national motto as "E Pluribus Unum" (Out of many, one).
In its lawsuit, the FFRF argues that the Congressional appropriations "will give actual and apparent government endorsement and advancement of religion," while excluding nonreligious Americans.
"[T]he mandated language diminishes nonbelievers by making god-belief synonymous with citizenship," the foundation says.
Despite the lawsuit, the new engravings were unveiled late September.
Congressman Mike Pence (R-Ind.) commented, "This motto is now permanently etched in the Center which now serves as the gateway into the United States Capitol building, and it is my hope that this will always be a visible reminder of the faith from which we come and the God who has so greatly blessed our nation."
Now seeking dismissal of the lawsuit, the ACLJ is representing 44 members of Congress in its amicus brief.
"Our position is clear: The fact is that Congress acted appropriately and consistent with the Constitution with the inclusion of the national motto and the Pledge of Allegiance in the Capitol Visitor Center," the ACLJ brief states. "The words of both the motto and the Pledge echo the conviction held by this Nation's Founders that our freedoms come from God.
"While the First Amendment affords atheists complete freedom to disbelieve, it does not compel the federal judiciary to redact religious references in every area of public life in order to suit atheistic sensibilities."
The ACLJ adds, "This challenge is another misguided attempt to alter history and purge America of religious references."
Formed in 1990, the ACLJ is dedicated to the ideal that religious freedom and freedom of speech are inalienable, God-given rights.