Democrats have continued their attack on God. Now they have scrapped the phrase “So help me God” from its intel meetings.
WASHINGTON — The witness rose from her seat, raised her right hand and swore to tell the truth before Congress.
But four words were missing: “So help me God.”
In the House of Representatives, to the winner go the spoils, and Democrats, the new decision makers, control everything, including what legislation gets a vote and the minutiae of procedural choices, such as whether witnesses must utter the traditional plea for divine aid. Democratic chairmen and chairwomen of several key committees have deemed no such entreaty is necessary.
“I think God belongs in religious institutions: in temple, in church, in cathedral, in mosque — but not in Congress,” said Representative Steve Cohen of Tennessee, the chairman of the Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties. What Republicans are doing, he continued, “is using God.”
“And God doesn’t want to be used,” he said.
No surprise, Republican lawmakers are staging a form of protest, jumping in when they can to point out each omission in real time.
“I am a sinner, I make mistakes every single day, but I do think that we could use a little more of God, not less,” Representative Garret Graves of Louisiana earnestly told his colleagues seated around the dais of the House Natural Resources Committee.
But weak is the hand without the gavel, and the change of phrasing is only one decision of many that the majority gets to make on Capitol Hill, where tradition reigns until it does not and every choice is freighted with subtext.
In 2003, Republicans famously rebranded the French fries and French toast offered in House cafeterias “freedom fries” and “freedom toast” to express dissatisfaction with Gallic opposition to the proposed invasion of Iraq. When Democrats wrested control of the chamber three years later, they introduced compostable silverware and cups — a decision Republicans swiftly reversed when they came to power in 2011, arguing that the utensils were too flimsy to properly spear salad fixings.
The Democrats in power now have yet to touch the culinary nomenclature of the House cafeterias. (There appears to be no Russian dressing available for them to snub.)
But they have introduced a number of other changes, each carrying its own symbolism: Free feminine hygiene products are now made available to offices. Several committee leaders have excised the gendered titles of “chairman” or “chairwoman” for the neutral mononym “chair” — though The New York Times’s style remains gender-specific.
And in a bid to become more eco-friendly, the Committee on Natural Resources swapped out single-use plastic water bottles for glassware at hearings. (One defiant Republican on the panel continues to bring in his own plastic bottle because he considers using glassware to be unsanitary.)
The single change that has prompted the most ire, however, is what Republicans contend is a concerted effort to omit the phrase “so help me God” when administering witness oaths. They point to examples on the Judiciary, Energy and Commerce, and Natural Resources committees; each person presiding over the panels has the power to decide to administer an oath as well as what that oath says.
But like most Washington spats, the truth is more complicated. When Representative Diana DeGette of Colorado, who heads the House Energy and Commerce oversight subcommittee, conducted a hearing and swore the witnesses in without the phrase, for example, Representative Jeff Duncan, Republican of South Carolina, jumped in to point out that “the oath was incorrect and incomplete.”
This is the oath we use,” Ms. DeGette replied, “and that’s the oath we’re going to use today.”NY Times
No matter how small the teacup, such congressional tempests do get refracted through a partisan prism. The Center for Inquiry, a nonprofit group dedicated to fostering “a secular society based on reason, science, freedom of inquiry and humanist values,” cheered Ms. DeGette’s “support for the constitutional separation of church and state.” Representative Liz Cheney of Wyoming, the No. 3 Republican, scoffed to Fox News that House Democrats “really have become the party of Karl Marx.”