WASHINGTON A federal judge has tossed out a lawsuit challenging the inclusion of national motto, "In God We Trust," and the Pledge of Allegiance at the Capitol Visitors Center, saying the Wisconsin-based group had no legal standing to bring the suit.
U.S. District Judge William M. Conley ruled Sept. 29 that neither the Freedom from Religion Foundation nor its individual members could claim for "subject-matter jurisdiction."
"Plaintiffs fail to establish standing because they cannot point to any specific congressional appropriation for the allegedly unconstitutional concurrent resolution," Conley wrote.
When it opened in December 2008, the $621 million underground center was void of any tribute to the nation's religious heritage and incorrectly promoted the national motto as E Pluribus Unum, which means "Out of many, one." While lacking in religious references, the 580,000-square-foot complex boasts numerous theaters, a gift shop and food. In addition to its permanent exhibits showcasing the role of Congress, the center has provided information on a variety of topics touting American culture and ingenuity, including information about Earth Day, industry and an AIDS rally, according to World Net Daily.
Seven months later, Congress ordered the two phrases to be installed at the center after numerous people, including U.S. Rep. Randy Forbes, a Virginia Republican, California Rep. Dan Lungren, a Republican, U.S. Sen. Jim, DeMint, R-S.C., and actor Chuck Norris, a conservative activist, lobbied the legislature to add the phrases to the center citing their historical significance.
The Freedom from Religion Foundation immediately challenged the move, claiming the phrases violated the separation of church and state. It sued Stephen Ayers, the Architect of the Capitol, whose jurisdiction includes the Capitol building and its grounds.
The American Center for Law and Justice, representing 50 members of Congress, had asked the court for the lawsuit to be dismissed.
"This challenge was another misguided attempt to alter history and purge America of religious references," ACLJ chief counsel Jay Sekulow said.
"The national motto and the pledge merely echo the sentiments found in the Declaration of Independence."
Despite the setback, Annie Laurie Gaylor, president of the foundation has vowed to re-file the lawsuit.