WASHINGTON — A prominent professing atheist organization is asking President-elect Donald Trump to keep God out of this month’s inaugural ceremony by removing the Bible, prayer and the “so help me God” phrase of the oath from the event.
The Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) recently sent a letter to Trump to urge him to change his plans for the inauguration. It asserted that the Constitution is secular in nature and “contains no directive to swear to a deity or to place a hand on a Bible.”
“The ‘so help me God’ tradition violates the spirit of our secular Constitution in the very act of promising to uphold it. The Constitution prohibits rather than mandates religious oaths,” the group asserted.
“In its altered, religious form, the oath has become a symbol of the disregard many in our nation have shown for our secular constitutional principles. Reciting the presidential oath in its original form would be an important symbolic step toward divorcing American politics from religion,” it said.
FFRF also asked Trump to pull the prayer portion of the event, which, as previously reported, will feature an ecumenical assortment, including Franklin Graham, prosperity preacher Paula White and others. Some spiritual leaders will read from Scripture at the inauguration, such as prominent Catholic Cardinal Timothy Dolan and Jewish Rabbi Marvin Hier of the Simon Wiesenthal Center.
“If you wished to hold a private religious convocation to personally celebrate your inauguration with religion, of course we would have no objection based on the Establishment Clause,” the letter, signed by Co-Presidents Dan Barker and Annie Laurie Gaylor, outlined. “But we and our membership do most strenuously object to turning a secular event into a religious circus.”
“You were not elected pastor in chief, but president of all the people,” they said, repeating a phrase many Christians often contended during Trump’s campaign. “Prayer hosted by the government should not be part of taking a ceremony about pledging fealty to a secular Constitution.”
The organization likewise asked Trump not to take his oath on the Bible, but instead on the Constitution.
It is not yet known whether or not Trump plans to respond. As previously reported, FFRF made a similar request in 2012 for Barack Obama’s second inauguration ceremony, but it was disregarded.
In his first inaugural address in 1789, the nation’s first president, George Washington, declared, “[I]t would be peculiarly improper to omit in this first official act, my fervent supplications to that Almighty Being who rules over the universe, who presides in the Councils of Nations, and whose providential aids can supply every human defect, that His benediction may consecrate to the liberties and happiness of the people of the United States, a government instituted by themselves for these essential purposes: and may enable every instrument employed in its administration to execute with success, the functions allotted to His charge.”
“[W]e ought to be no less persuaded that the propitious smiles of Heaven can never be expected on a nation that disregards the eternal rules of order and right, which Heaven itself has ordained,” he proclaimed.