Friday, October 28, 2011

The White House Responds to Secularists...With Bullshit

I'm normally a quiet person.  I'm not moved to profanity easily.  I am largely in support of, though somewhat disappointed in, our current US administration.  But I just got an e-mail from the White House, as did many other people in a community I share.  And this makes the situation not a usual one.  This comes from 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.
Fuck this.  Fuck everything about this.  This is complete and total bullshit.  The fact that an "Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships" exists is bullshit.  This is antithetical to the principles upon which our nation was founded.  We are NOT one nation under god.  We do NOT trust in god.

That. Is. Not. America.

I am not unaware of the role that religion has played in our history.  I am also, unlike most people, not unaware that that role has not always, and I would go so far as to say rarely, been a positive one.

The addition of "under god" to the pledge of allegiance took place under McCarthyism, not exactly a shining moment in our history.  Putting "In God We Trust" on our money became law during the same period.  "In God We Trust" became our national motto during the same period.  Not only has this been "one nation under god" for only about 60 years, it became so only to differentiate ourselves from the communist USSR.  Because some people were scared of "Ivan" in the 1950s, I have to live with blatant theism thrown in my face whenever I look at a piece of American currency or hear children being taught to love their country.

I find it hard to express just how much anger I am feeling right now.  I am in no way proud to be American at this moment.  My country, the leaders of my nation, have forgotten the words of Jefferson, Adams, Franklin, and so many of the profoundly secular people who were instrumental in the founding of this country.  I think that our leaders have forgotten the Treaty of Tripoli, signed in 1797:
As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion,—as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquility, of Mussulmen,—and as the said States never entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mahometan nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.
 The petitions that led to this response from the White House were some of the most supported petitions on the site set up to allow them.  The r/atheism forum of just celebrated passing 200,000 members, a wonderful milestone for a single Internet forum representing any community.  There are millions of atheists in the United States.  Where is the government decree stating that every American has to look at something on a frequent basis stating "In Reason We Trust"?  No god of any type has any part in my life, and no god of any type is supposed to have a part in the governance of my country.  With one e-mail, one page on a website, the White House has let down the American people, and the Constitution of the United States.  Today is a sad day.


  1. Matt,

    You said "No god of any type has any part in my life, and no god of any type is supposed to have a part in the governance of my country" yet you yourself reflect your worldview when you suggest "In Reason We Trust." Reason is your god. Your perspective suggests all truth worth knowing is only deduced through reason. I'm not sure why you aren't willing to acknowledge this.

  2. The point could have as easily have been made by suggesting that the Establishment Clause be inscribed on every public building. I have to look at an openly theistic statement, freely endorsed by my country, on a frequent basis. That does not represent me. That blatantly ignores me, along with millions of American citizens. I would be just as happy with "E Pluribus Unum" in its place. Or nothing.

  3. Trust in Reason(evidence) does not mean trust in god(lack of evidence).
    The two phrases are completely diametrically opposed.

  4. I'm afraid I don't quite understand. What part of having 'In God we Trust' or 'Under God' on our money / in our pledge breaks our Constitution?

  5. R2: Are you really that dense, or are you just trying to evoke a response?

    What if the word "God" were to be replaced by "Zeus", or perhaps "Batman", or even "Satan". Would that help you to understand?

  6. That would be the Establishment Clause, the first pronouncement in the First Amendment. "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion." Its the reason there is no prayer in public schools, for example. Except for, you know, the pledge. Which is kind of the problem.

  7. I've always interpreted the First Amendment to mean that the government will not take any actions to endorse, support or involve any organized religion in the governance of the people. Saying the word 'god' doesn't break that rule. If our printed money said 'In the Catholic Church we Trust', for instance, that would be a problem. The government would be endorsing an established religion.

    Please explain your viewpoint more, I've honestly never really considered the pledge to be an issue.

  8. Well, let me see if I can summarize the case. I am not a lawyer, but I'm at least somewhat well informed on this issue. Once past the First Amendment, the next important bit of law is the 14th Amendment, specifically Due Process Clause that led to the Incorporation Doctrine:

    "No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws."

    This means that States cannot do anything to establish religions either. At the time, this was an issue, since six states had an official religion.

    The truly critical decision, which lays out exactly what the Establishment Clause does, occurred in Everson v. Board of Education in 1947. The decision, while it upheld a New Jersey law that provided for bus transportation to both public and parochial schools because it applied to all citizens regardless of religion, included the following very important definition:

    The "establishment of religion" clause of the First Amendment means at least this: Neither a state nor the federal government can set up a church. Neither can pass laws which aid one religion, aid all religions, or prefer one religion over another. Neither can force nor influence a person to go to or to remain away from church against his will or force him to profess a belief or disbelief in any religion. No person can be punished for entertaining or professing religious beliefs or disbeliefs, for church attendance or non-attendance. No tax in any amount, large or small, can be levied to support any religious activities or institutions, whatever they may be called, or whatever form they may adopt to teach or practice religion. Neither a state nor the Federal Government can, openly or secretly, participate in the affairs of any religious organizations or groups and vice versa. In the words of Jefferson, the clause against establishment of religion by law was intended to erect "a wall of separation between church and State."

    So, how does this apply to the Pledge of Allegiance, our currency, or the motto of the country? I do not believe in god. Millions of Americans don't believe in god. But god is on our money, in our pledge, and in our national motto. Let's be honest here, we all know that the god being mentioned is the monotheistic god of Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. That's what is meant; denying it is nothing more than a desperate attempt to make it more palatable to non-believers. But even if what was meant was some nebulous concept of god, such as might be conceived of in deism or pantheism, that's still ignoring the fact that it does not fit into my religious non-beliefs in the slightest. The government is endorsing, on every official document, on every piece of currency, in classrooms around the country, a religion that I do not believe to be correct by explicitly mentioning a god. And again, lets be honest; they mean the Abrahamic god, and even more specifically they mean the Christian god. They'll never admit it, because then it would be too obviously unconstitutional, but that's what they mean.

    If you're a believer, ask yourself this: what if the Pledge of Allegiance said "one nation, under Thor"? What if it said "one nation, denying all gods"? How about "one nation, under Allah"? Would that bother you? Would you complain that such a thing did not accurately reflect your beliefs, and thus did not represent you as an American citizen? Because that's how I feel every day, and its in the pledge, and on our money, and its in the national motto, and its in virtually every political speech, and every single President has asked for god's help at his inauguration. So I and other secular Americans made our voices heard. And we got a nice "fuck you guys" response.