It is a crime to lie to Congress
What one of the police officers said, and why religious leaders should listen
The first witnesses to testify before the Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the US Capitol were four police officers: Two from the US Capitol Police, and two from the DC Metropolitan Police Department.
■ Though they testified only in their personal capacities, the witnesses were subject to the same rules that apply to anyone who testifies before Congress. That includes 18 U.S.C. Section 1001, under which it is a Federal crime to lie to Congress. It's a good law: Congress needs to be able to obtain truthful information if it is to be able to make appropriate laws. And in the order of operations of the Federal government, Congress literally comes first. Some say that it is "first among equals", but the reality is that Congress can dismiss the President, not the other way around. The legislative branch is more equal than the others.
■ Thus, what people say to Congress matters. Cynicism aside, what a person says to Congress, they say to the American people. And they're not allowed to lie when they do. Testimony to Congress must faithfully represent the truth.
■ In his testimony, Officer Daniel Hodges of the DC Metro Police made specific note of some of the flags being carried: "It was clear the terrorists perceived themselves to be Christians: I saw the Christian Flag directly to my front. Another read 'Jesus is my Savior, Trump is my President.'"
■ It is distressing testimony, since it gives evidence that at least some of the people participating in the attack saw their religious and political identities as one, and that the merger of the two gave them some reason to commit an attack on the very seat of the national government.
■ In his autobiography, Benjamin Franklin noted that "Tho' I seldom attended any Public Worship, I had still an Opinion of its Propriety, and of its Utility when rightly conducted". But Franklin also said this about what he saw in the various churches of his time: "I respected them all, tho' with different degrees of Respect as I found them more or less mix'd with other Articles which without any Tendency to inspire, promote or confirm Morality, serv'd principally to divide us and make us unfriendly to one another."
■ Much is rightly said of Thomas Jefferson's contributions to religious liberty. Few things are more important to our civil laws than the First Amendment and its protection of religious freedom. But it is very much in the founding spirit of the country, too, to expect religious leaders and teachers to heed Franklin's words and avoid any tendency "to divide us and make us unfriendly to one another".