The Freedom From Religion Foundation is asking President-elect Joe Biden to honor his promise to unite the country by leaving religion out of his inauguration, especially the presidential oath.
FFRF Co-Presidents Dan Barker and Annie Laurie Gaylor note in a letter to Biden that the Constitution, which prescribes the oath in Article 2, Section 1, does not contain references to “so help me God” language or a bible. The national state/church watchdog is requesting Biden, as it has requested previous recent presidents, to honor the Constitution on Jan. 20 by omitting that religious verbiage from the oath of office. FFRF points out that keeping the inauguration secular will signal Biden as president of all the people, in keeping with the stated purpose of the inauguration’s stated purpose to showcase “renewed American vision for an inclusive, equitable and unified citizenry.”
Secular Americans are the fastest growing demographic by religious identification in this country, comprising more than one in four citizens. Religion should not be part of a ceremony about promising fealty to a secular Constitution, says FFRF. 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)
It took nearly a century before “religious verbiage” was added to the presidential oath-taking. Presidents all the way from George Washington to Chester Alan Arthur — including John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and James Monroe — did not tamper with the wording of the Constitution while being sworn in.
“The dubious tradition of presidents amending the oath of office while promising to uphold the Constitution is relatively new,” adds FFRF Director of Strategic Response Andrew L. Seidel, who has covered the history of the oath in his book The Founding Myth. “The modern tradition dates to a public oath Woodrow Wilson took in 1917, having taken the oath of office privately the day before and without the religious addition. This is just another example of political piety trampling our secular foundations.”
Biden has publicly stated his plans to use a large family bible during the ceremony. FFRF advises that he save this for a private ceremony and keep the public inauguration free of religion, including prayer. Instead, it suggests, Biden should place his hand on the “godless” U.S. Constitution that “unites us all under that hallowed mantle, ‘We the People.’”
FFRF is also thanking Biden’s Inaugural Committee for embracing science and promising to hold events that keep Americans safe.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation is contacting the president-elect on behalf of 80 million nonreligious Americans — including its 33,000 nonreligious members.