Evangelist Franklin Graham took to Twitter this week chastising Democrats for omitting the phrase “so help me God” from witness oaths, and singling out a Tennessee representative who said God doesn’t belong in Congress.
“Why has the Democratic Party turned its back on God? @RepCohen of TN said, ‘I think God belongs in religious institutions: in temple, in church, in cathedral, in mosque—but not in Congress,’” said the first of a series of tweets made by Graham on May 14.
The tweets were in response to a New York Times article highlighting a new policy by numerous committee heads dropping the traditional phrase “so help me God,” from witness oaths. The Times quoted U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen of Tennessee, chairman of the Judiciary’s Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, taking a swipe at the religious beliefs of Republicans.
“I think God belongs in religious institutions: in temple, in church, in cathedral, in mosque — but not in Congress,” he said, adding that what Republicans are doing “is using God.”
“And God doesn’t want to be used,” Cohen said.
Graham, president of Samaritan’s Purse and the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, took direct aim at the Democrat party, saying many of its members want to eliminate the Almighty so they are free to live without a moral compass.
“We need more of God, not less! What @RepCohen is suggesting is what Communism did in Eastern Europe & is still doing in places around the world like Cuba. Communism only allows worship inside approved churches,” he continued. “God is our Creator & the maker of the universe. He is present everywhere; He is not limited to churches or temples. The root of the issue is that many politicians don’t want God in any part of their politics or our country’s business because His standards condemn their sins.”
The new practice also has not set well with several Republicans who are pointing out the omission every time the modified oath is read. South Carolina Republican Rep. Jeff Duncan pointed out that “the oath was incorrect and incomplete” after House Energy and Commerce oversight subcommittee chair, U.S. Rep. Diana DeGett, of Colorado, read the oath without the phrase.
Jason Lemieux, director of Government Affairs for the Center for Inquiry lauded DeGette.
“She stuck to her guns in upholding the secular character of our government, and lo, the world did not come to an end. Instead, she helped the approximately 95 million nonreligious Americans feel represented by their government,” he said in a statement.
U.S. Rep. Mike Johnson, a Republican from Louisiana, who also interrupted a recent Judiciary Committee hearing, said the phrase is more than symbolic.
“The intention behind it was to express the idea that the truth of what was being said was important not just in the moment, but would go into eternity, and someone was watching and would ultimately be our judge,” Johnson said. “Some would call that mere symbolism, but to many of our founders, it was deeper than that.”
Photo courtesy: Getty Images/Justin Sullivan/Staff
Lori Arnold is a national award-winning journalist whose experience includes 16 years at a daily community newspaper in San Diego and 16 years as writer-editor for the Christian Examiner. She owns StoryLori Media and is a member of the Evangelical Press Association.