President Obama Rejects Citizen Petition To Remove ‘Under God’ From The Pledge

Image of President Obama speaking

Joshua DuBois, Executive Director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, responded to two recent citizen petitions asking that ‘In God We Trust’ be removed from the currency and ‘Under God’ be removed from the Pledge of Allegiance. As I expected, DuBois makes a long reach to justify rejecting the petitions.

One recent method of citizen engagement that the Obama administration is trying is called “We the People” that harkens back to the Declaration of Independence and our current right to petition government for redress of grievances. The White House set up a website for people to create petitions on issues and the administration promised to respond if the petition got a certain number of “signatures”.

Two petitions were concerning ‘god’ used in the pledge and on the currency.

In a note titled “Religion in the Public Square” DuBois wrote:

Throughout our history, people of all faiths – as well as secular Americans – have played an important role in public life. And a robust dialogue about the role of religion in public life is an important part of our public discourse.

“A sense of proportion should also guide those who police the boundaries between church and state. Not every mention of God in public is a breach to the wall of separation – context matters.”

That’s why President Obama supports the use of the words “under God’ in our Pledge of Allegiance and “In God we Trust’ on our currency. These phrases represent the important role religion plays in American public life, while we continue to recognize and protect the rights of secular Americans. As the President said in his inaugural address, “We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus, and non-believers.” We’re proud of that heritage, and the strength it brings to our great country.

Notice the disconnect? Here’s the red flag I saw:

These phrases represent the important role religion plays in American public life, while we continue to recognize and protect the rights of secular Americans.

DuBois is using the “celebrating our heritage” argument to justify something that on the face doesn’t “recognize and protect the rights of secular Americans”. Just because something was done a long time ago doesn’t mean it’s the right or moral thing to do now.

The Confederate flag “celebrates our heritage”. Does DuBois think that southern states should be allowed to fly the Confederate flag.

This is not the first time there have been church state issues with the Obama Administration. Why am I not surprised at the response to the petitions? I guess I expect a theist to try and justify Christian privilege by making their religious belief seem generic.

Again I point to my sports analogy about separation of church and state:

For the sake of this argument I am going to set it in a small town in Ohio.

Jake Smith lives in Buckeye Town with his family. He is a huge Ohio State University fan. He bleeds scarlet and gray.

In the past few years more people from Michigan have moved to Buckeye Town to the point that a majority of the town council is made up of University of Michigan fans.

One day a council member introduces a resolution requiring the Mayor to issue a University of Michigan Day proclamation. It passes by a wide a margin and the mayor issues the proclamation.

How do you think Jake Smith feels about his government now? Alienation? Second class status?

Now you know how non-Christians and non-believers feel when the government supports Christian privilege.

It is NOT the government’s job to be a religious cheerleader just as it is not the job of the Buckeye Town council to be Michigan cheerleaders.

Besides doing things like favoring Christian privilege violates the Golden Rule.

Separation of Church and State – The Sports Analogy

And that is why DuBois’ response is unacceptable and an insult to those who want a secular government.

[H/T to theperplexedobserver for the heads up]

This post was written before April of 2020 when this blog transitioned to a podcast.

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5 Comments

  1. dougindeap
    October 30, 2011

    As the President says, "context matter," and here the context makes government-sponsored affirmation of god(s) particularly inappropriate.

    The government’s inscription of the phrase “In God we trust” on coins
    and currency, as well as its addition of the words “under God” to the
    pledge of allegiance in 1954 and adoption of the phrase “In God we
    trust” as a national motto in 1956, were mistakes, which should be
    corrected. Under our Constitution, the government has no business
    proclaiming that “we trust” “In God.” Some of us do, and some of us
    don’t; each of us enjoys the freedom to make that choice; the government
    does not and should not purport to speak for us in this regard. Nor
    does the government have any business calling on its citizens to voice
    affirmation of a god in any circumstances, let alone in the very pledge
    the government prescribes for affirming allegiance to the country. The
    unnecessary insertion of an affirmation of a god in the pledge puts
    atheists and other nonbelievers in a Catch 22: Either recite the pledge
    with rank hypocrisy or accept exclusion from one of the basic rituals of
    citizenship enjoyed by all other citizens. The government has no
    business forcing citizens to this choice on religious grounds, and it
    certainly has no business assembling citizens’ children in public
    schools and prescribing their recitation of the pledge–affirmation of a
    god and all–as a daily routine.

  2. sbj1964
    November 5, 2011

    In God we trust has been this lands Motto since our fore Father put it there back in 1956 ? Damn we live in a weird land !

  3. Miriam
    November 25, 2011

    "Under God" and "In God we trust" do NOT favor Christianity. Jews and Muslims also believe in God. It's a generic term.

    Why make such a fuss over something which you do not believe exists? Fight over reality instead.

    • November 28, 2011

      Why make such a fuss over something which you do not believe exists? Fight over reality instead.

      Because a government that is suppose to represent all citizens shouldn't be taking a religious side. If no religious tests are allowed for elected office then why the need for religious tests for citizens? You might consider God to be generic but it isn't for the people who don't believe in it.

      • sbj1964
        December 2, 2011

        Ditto Doug ! You are the man !

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