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Thu Nov 15, 2012, 10:56 AM

FFRF asks Obama to drop religion in presidential oath; so can you

The Freedom From Religion Foundation has sent a letter to President Obama asking him to reject the way this country politicizes religion. The Constitution, which prescribes the oath in Art. 2, Sect. 1, does not contain the “so help me God” language or require use of a bible. As FFRF has always done before presidential inaugurations, we are asking President Obama to honor the Constitution on Jan. 21 by omitting that religious verbiage from the Oath of Office.

Secular Americans are the fastest growing religious identification demographic in this country. It’s time politicians stop pandering to the religious right and start courting us.

November 8, 2012

President Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500

Dear President Obama:

Congratulations on your re-election. I write to respectfully ask you to re-examine the use of religion as a political tool in your second term as President. The November election highlights the country’s rapidly shifting demographics. The electorate’s religious affiliation is changing more quickly than any other metric, including race. In 1990, 8% of Americans were nonreligious. When you were elected in 2008, 15% of Americans identified as nonreligious. Now that number is 20%.

More strikingly, 1-in-3 Americans under 30 now identify as nonreligious. This is the demographic that, by a wide margin, elected you in 2008 and again in 2012. It is the 30-and-unders who are our greatest supporters and are the future of this country. Their votes will decide future elections. More and more they are tired of leaders injecting religion into politics.

The shifts towards marriage, sex, and race equality, and the acceptance of non-nuclear families all coincide with the secularization of America. For secular America, religious rhetoric is empty. Religious justifications for government action are hollow arguments invoking an authority that we reject. Politicians often use religion to pander to their base, but we find such rhetoric exclusionary and distasteful.

You called Nov. 5 “the last day that I will ever campaign.” This term limitation is a gift. You are not beholden to any future constituency. This term is a chance to do something that no president in recent memory has done: reach out to secular Americans. In the past, that might have been politically costly. But this recent election shows that it will be politically costly not to reach out to secular America. We are the future. Use this second term to build a legacy by rejecting the way this country politicizes religion.

You can start on January 21. When you stand to reaffirm your oath, do so using the language of the Founders. Eliminate the religious verbiage. While you’re at it, why not place your hand on the Constitution instead of a bible? The oath, laid out in Article 2, Section 1 of the Constitution, is secular (no hand on the bible, no “so help me God”): “I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

The “so help me God” tradition violates the Constitution in the act of promising to uphold it. The ritual alienates the demographic that elected officials must rely on in the coming years. It excludes the people that put you into office and runs against the wishes of the people that created your office. The Constitution does not mandate religious oaths; it prohibits them.

Use this term to create a legacy worthy of the Founders. Restore the presidential oath to its original form and begin the necessary process of divorcing American politics from religion.

I will never forget the lines of your first inaugural address, recognizing nonbelievers:

We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus — and non-believers. We are shaped by every language and culture, drawn from every end of this Earth; and because we have tasted the bitter swill of civil war and segregation, and emerged from that dark chapter stronger and more united, we cannot help but believe that the old hatreds shall someday pass; that the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve, that as the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall reveal itself; and that America must play its role in ushering in a new era of peace.

The final tribal allegiance that must dissolve is not sex, or race, or sexual orientation. It is religion. Private citizens are free to maintain that allegiance if they choose, but it is time our government abandoned it. Please do not passively wait for a revelation of “our common humanity.” Lead us into that new era of peace and unity by separating politics from the division religion sows.

Start small. Start by honoring the secular intent of the oath. In its altered, religious form, the oath is a symbol of the disregard this country has shown for its Constitution in the name of God. Our once silent minority will no longer remain silent as politicians trample the document we hold sacred —the Constitution. Honor the oath as you recite it on January 21 and lead us into the new era you promised four years ago.

With hope,

Andrew L. Seidel
Freedom From Religion Foundation


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Reply FFRF asks Obama to drop religion in presidential oath; so can you (Original post)
cleanhippie Nov 2012 OP
RegieRocker Nov 2012 #1
cleanhippie Nov 2012 #2
Autumn Colors Nov 2012 #3
dmallind Nov 2012 #4
trotsky Nov 2012 #5
dmallind Nov 2012 #7
trotsky Nov 2012 #8
rug Nov 2012 #6
cleanhippie Nov 2012 #9

Response to RegieRocker (Reply #1)

Thu Nov 15, 2012, 11:04 AM

2. It would be better than good!

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Response to cleanhippie (Original post)

Thu Nov 15, 2012, 12:59 PM

4. Good question. Just about 250 years too early to get anything but shitcanned in the US. nt

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Response to dmallind (Reply #4)

Thu Nov 15, 2012, 02:58 PM

5. Do you really think it will be acceptable that quickly?

I wish I shared your optimism...

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Response to trotsky (Reply #5)

Thu Nov 15, 2012, 03:32 PM

7. Making predictions is hard, especially about the future.

But overall I think that's about right. Sometimes more optimism seems warranted, but for every datum we see about the shrinking religiosity of the young, there are at least two that show that previously promising results about the youth of yesteryear have faded into the norm. People get more religious as they age. Some of it is peer/societal pressure. Some of it is surrender to anti-atheist bigotry. Some of it is the socially implanted axiom that they need to give their kids a religion. Some of it is fear of death. Hell a tiny bit of it is people finding a particular religion/sect that suits them more than they expected.

All that adds up though to an incredibly slow gain for secularism no matter how the current crop of kids score for now. The way I look at it is religiosity in Europe faded just as slowly after the scientific revolution of Copernicus, Galileo et al passed into the industrial revolution and the (intellectuals only) Enlightenment. Even in late Victorian times, public atheism was a huge scandal (and a crime) and religiosity was only marginally less entrenched than pre-Luther. The only thing that accelerated rationalism was the utter horror of losing tens of millions in a single brutal war. The more you know about WWI the less easy it is to accept a loving god. Experiencing the fucking thing would have deconverted most saints I would imagine.

Other than that huge spike, reinforced 20 years later with another, the decline in religion in Europe was and is incredibly slow-moving. The US suffered at a much reduced rate and much more distant, in many ways, impact through those wars, so secularization has continued to move maddeningly slowly here. I'm basing my estimation on that rate, where simplistic daddy-in-the-sky beliefs are still held by the vast majority (don't let the DU Keller Klatch pretend otherwise - at least 2/3 in the US still believe in a literal Satan, Adam and Eve, Angels, etc) and where each generation only chips away a couple of % throughout their lifecycle.

The guess is only a guess of course, but I would be surprised if the tolerance limits are more than 100 yrs from that guess, in either direction.

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Response to dmallind (Reply #7)

Thu Nov 15, 2012, 03:44 PM

8. You have a really good point about Europe.

Perhaps there is good reason to be optimistic, even in the ultra-religious USA!

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Response to cleanhippie (Original post)

Thu Nov 15, 2012, 03:29 PM

6. Why? That part has always been optional.

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Response to rug (Reply #6)

Thu Nov 15, 2012, 10:03 PM

9. Yeah. Optional.

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