The Freedom From Religion Foundation is asking Donald Trump to "faithfully execute" the secular Constitution by keeping faith and prayer out of the Inaugural.
Religion should not be part of "a ceremony about pleading fealty to a secular Constitution," says the state/church watchdog. The framers of the U.S. Constitution thought the presidential oath so important they included the exact wording:
"I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of the President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States." (Article 2, Section 1, U.S. Constitution)
Notably, there's no reference to "So help me God" or placement of a presidential hand on a bible. In their letter to Trump, FFRF Co-Presidents Dan Barker and Annie Laurie Gaylor note that it took nearly a century before "religious verbiage" was added to the presidential oath-taking. Presidents all the way from George Washington to Andrew Jackson — including John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and James Monroe — did not tamper with the wording of the Constitution while being sworn in.
The couple suggest that Trump place his hand not on a bible, but on the "godless" U.S. Constitution, which "unites us all under that hallowed mantle, 'We the People.'"
FFRF contacted the president-elect on behalf of 70 million nonreligious Americans — including its 25,000 nonreligious members.
The organization notes that Trump appears to be turning the secular inauguration into "a religious circus" — given reports Trump has invited as officiants Rev. Franklin Graham, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Rabbi Marvin Hier and even controversial "prosperity" preacher Paula White, who was the subject of a Senate probe for operating a scam.
"If you wish 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," FFRF says. "(We might question your taste in ultra-conservative clergy.) But you were not elected pastor in chief, but president of all the people."
FFRF ends its homily: "Our message to you is, as it is to public officials everywhere: Get off your knee and get to work, using reason, compassion and the Constitution — not religion — as your guide."
President Trump would do himself — and the country — well to follow the advice.