Freethought Today · Jan/Feb 2013

Published by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc.

So help me Zeus! – O’Reilly v. FFRF

Staff Attorney Andrew Seidel, carrying on a long FFRF tradition of protesting the use of the bible and an oath to God at presidential swearings-in, sent an appeal to President Barack Obama immediately after he was reelected, asking him to “go by the book” (the Constitution, not the bible).

FFRF has asked every president since its founding, starting with Jimmy Carter, to eschew the bible and “So help you God” at presidential inaugurations. The U.S. Constitution, in Article II, Section 1, Clause 8, specifies:

“Before he enters on the execution of his office he shall take the following oath or affirmation: ‘I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the office of president of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States.’ ”

Missing from those instructions is any reference to the bible or God. In response to Andrew’s letter, Fox TV invited him to debate archconservative pundit Bill O’Reilly. Andrew clearly won, but you be the judge by viewing it at bit.ly/VkzMcl.

Andrew said (amid numerous interruptions by the host) in response to O’Reilly’s claim that the “overwhelming majority” of Americans want the bible in the inauguration: “That’s actually not accurate. The Freedom From Religion Foundation’s membership has exploded over the past five years. We have 19,000 members now; 19% of this country now consider themselves nonreligious; 35% of this country under the age of 30 consider themselves nonreligious. The demographics are shifting.”  

He also pointed out that the will of the majority is irrelevant and the bible is barbaric: “The Bill of Rights exists to protect the minority from the tyranny of the majority. We are a nation of laws and neither our laws nor our morality are founded upon the bible. Religion gets its morality from us, not the other way around. . . . The bible exhibits a Bronze Age morality that treats women as chattel, human beings as property and punishes innocent children for the crimes of their parents to the third and fourth generations, and that’s just the first set of Ten Commandments!”

The subject of Martin Luther King Jr. came up briefly, since Obama swore on one of his bibles, giving Andrew an opening to quote from King’s famous letter from the Birmingham jail criticizing the “pious irrelevancies and sanctimonious trivialities” of many white churches.

Read Andrew’s letter (Nov. 9, 2012) and FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor’s statement about the Inaugural (Jan. 20, 2013) at ffrf.org/news-releases/.

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