When the Obama Administration announced its “We the People”  web site where citizens can post petitions on issues, I checked it out and signed a couple of petitions. A couple days ago I received an email containing the Administration’s official answers to those petitions. Two things stood out. First, when I signed the petitions, the threshold for having the petition addressed was 3,000 signatures. The new threshold is 25,000. There is a disclaimer stating that these thresholds are subject to change by the Administration but I couldn’t tell you if that disclaimer was posted when I first signed up. I wonder how badly they got inundated with petitions garnering 3,000 signatures.

Second is how the official answer to the petitions do not address the issue of the petitions. I signed three petitions, two regarding God in the Pledge of Allegiance and on money and the other on legalization of Marijuana.

My email response to the two regarding God are below with links to the petitions with answers.

I respect the President’s right to openly profess his faith. He has, however, failed to understand the petitions to remove the invocation of God in the Pledge of Allegiance and on the currency.

 These are the texts of the two petitions…

 we petition the obama administration to:

Edit the Pledge of Allegiance to remove the phrase “Under God”.

The Pledge of Allegiance is said every day in schools across America. It is a government sanctioned speech, and should remain neutral in matters of religion. In its current state, it supports the existence of God, which goes against several religions, and supports others. This bias should not be supported by the country according to the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.

we petition the obama administration to:

Remove “In God We Trust” from currency.

The currency of the United States currently contains the phrase “In God We Trust” on it. This was added in the 1950’s, and is unconstitutional. It supports one religion over another, and should be removed from all currency. It violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. This phrase should be removed from created currency.

 …and the…

Official White House Response to Edit the Pledge of Allegiance to remove the phrase “Under God”. and 1 other petition

Religion in the Public Square

By Joshua DuBois: Executive Director of the Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships

The separation of church and state outlined in the First Amendment to the United States Constitution is an important founding principle of our nation. Our nation’s Bill of Rights guarantees not only that the government cannot establish an official religion, but also guarantees citizens’ rights to practice the religion of their choosing or no religion at all.

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.

While the President strongly supports every American’s right to religious freedom and the separation of church and state, that does not mean there’s no role for religion in the public square.

When he was a Senator from Illinois, President Obama gave a keynote address at the Call to Renewal conference where he spoke about the important role religion plays in politics and in public life.

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.

Neither of these petitions has anything to do with the rights of citizens to profess their faith in the public square. I wholeheartedly agree that citizen’s rights to religious expression should be aggressively protected. As part of the response to this petition the President is quoted from a speech in which he states…

“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.

I agree, context does indeed matter. Invoking God on the official currency of the United States and in the official Pledge of Allegiance is somewhat more than a mere “mention of God in public”. As the Pledge is recited at the opening of Congress every day, and the wording is the law of the land, ( The United States Flag Code  Chapter 1 of Title 4 of the United States Code (4 U.S.C. § 1 et seq), it is clearly a violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. Those of us in the secular community did not ask for the President’s opinion on religion in America. This is a Constitutional issue. The invocation of God was not in the Pledge or on the currency in their original forms. 

1892: “I pledge allegiance to my flag and the republic for which it stands: one nation indivisible with liberty and justice for all.”

 1892-1923: “I pledge allegiance to my flag and to the republic for which it stands: one nation indivisible with liberty and justice for all.”

1923-1924 : “I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States and to the republic for which it stands: one nation indivisible with liberty and justice for all.”

1924 to 1954: “I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands; one nation indivisible with liberty and justice for all.”

1954-Present: “I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

 From 1951 through 1953, all attempts by religious groups to have “under God” added to the pledge failed. Only after attending a sermon in 1954 did newly baptized President Eisenhower, in a fit of religious zealotry, manage to push it through Congress. 

  “In God We Trust” on U.S. currency, did not appear on any money until the Civil War. Although supported by various legislation allowing its usage prior to the Eisenhower Administration, the phrase was not made mandatory on all currency until Public Law 84-140, was passed in July 1954. 

 If the “We the People” initiative is going to become a viable method by which citizens can petition the White House regarding issues of concern, then the responses should directly address the question raised in the petition. The Administration responses to these two petitions do not address the grievances presented.

 David M. Huff

Citizen of the United States

Cross posted at: Amghru…and the beat goes on

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