The Freedom From Religion Foundation, the nation’s largest organization of atheists and agnostics, filed a lawsuit Tuesday to try to block the engraving of “In God We Trust” and the Pledge of Allegiance at the Capitol Visitor Center.
The Madison, Wisc., organization filed the lawsuit in the U.S. District Court in western Wisconsin, after the House and Senate passed resolutions in July directing the Architect of the Capitol to make the engravings in a prominent place at the visitor’s center, the first point of entry for all tourists arriving at the Capitol.
The engravings, paid for by taxpayer dollars, are an unconstitutional endorsement of a particular religion, said the group in a news release.
â€˜In God We Trust’ excludes and treats as outsiders the millions of adult Americans, including as many as 15 percent of all adults, who are not religious, i.e., atheists, agnostics, skeptics and freethinkers, none of whom possesses a belief in a god; the mandated language diminishes nonbelievers by making god-belief synonymous with citizenship.”
The suit names Architect of the Capitol Stephen Ayers as the defendant. Costs of the engraving differ, with the Congressional Budget Office estimating the costs to be less than $100,000. Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., the sponsor of the Senate resolution, said costs could be as much as $150,000.
The resolutions were introduced after critics said Congress spent too much on the center and failed to acknowledge the country’s religious heritage. The $621 million center opened in December.