Mr. FINCHER. Mr. Speaker, I rise today to introduce the Affirming Religious Heritage and Freedom in the United States Act. This legislation is a simple statement recognizing the importance of religion in the lives of our nation's citizens, the strong role of Judeo-Christian heritage in the development of our nation, and the freedom for all to exercise their religious beliefs in our nation.
Our nation's history is storied with references to religious beliefs and symbols that mark their importance in the development of our nation. Those religious beliefs often inspired our nation's founding fathers, as well as presidents and lawmakers throughout our history, to stand firm in their conviction that this should be a nation of freedom, including freedom of religion.
Recently, we've heard more and more negative news stories about religion in our nation. I ask, what is wrong with faith and exercising your religious beliefs? When did religion become such a bad thing that people want to delete it from our nation's history? I am discouraged when I see anti-religion groups forming throughout the nation, working hard to remove any mention or symbol of God or religion in our public spaces and resources. These groups claim their work is about the separation of church and state, but the government is not forcing anyone into religion or to pay tithes to any particular religious establishment. Religion, specifically the Judeo-Christian religion, is just simply part of our heritage, and the Constitution says this is a nation with freedom of religion, not freedom from religion.
I introduced this resolution because we are a nation of people with the right to freely exercise our religion and many in our nation are religious. A 2007 PEW survey shows that 92 percent of Americans believe in God. I also introduced this resolution because I believe the religious beliefs of Americans inspire them to do good for others, not harm. For instance, in 2010, $298.42 billion of charitable contributions were made in the United States and 32 percent, or $95.88 billion, went to religious organizations according to the National Park Service. From September 2010 to September 2011, 64.3 million people in the United States volunteered and 33.2 percent did so for religious organizations, the highest percentage of all volunteer categories according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The freedom to exercise religious beliefs is vital to our nation's citizens and an important part of our heritage. That's why I am honored to introduce the Affirming Religious Heritage and Freedom in the United States Act.