The Freedom From Religion Foundation has filed a lawsuit in order to force the removal of Christian religious rituals from the 2009 Presidential Inauguration. These rituals include the addition of the phrase “so help me God” to the Oath of Office, as well as a Christian invocation ritual and Christian benediction ritual, to be delivered by Christian preachers Rick Warren and Joseph Lowery.
I wholeheartedly endorse this lawsuit. At the same time, I do not trust that the majority-Christian Supreme Court will act to protect the rights of non-Christians. The Christian justices on the Supreme Court will certainly judge the Christian rituals in the Inauguration to be “benign”. That’s easy for them to say – they’re Christians after all. Most non-Christians regard the official government support of these Christian rituals to be far from benign, and a highly offensive corruption of the USA’s secular democracy.
As an individual, Barack Obama is free to practice whatever religion he wants. However, Barack Obama is not free to make his Christian religion a part of his official acts as President. Doing so is a violation of the First Amendment to the Constitution. In particular, making Christian religious rituals a part of the Inauguration gives the impression that adherence to Christianity is a qualification for the Presidency. This violates both the First Amendment and the original body of the Constitution.
Contrary to popular misconceptions, the majority of presidential inaugurations have not included religious prayers of any sort. The first time such an inaugural prayer was performed was in the 1930s. If George Washington and Abraham Lincoln didn’t need any official prayers at their inaugurations, Barack Obama certainly does not.
It is particularly troubling that preacher Rick Warren has been selected to give a government-endorsed Christian invocation prayer for the official Inauguration ceremonies. Warren presided over a shamefully-rigged theological testing of both Barack Obama and John McCain last year – live on TV from the Saddleback Church. Remember the lies about a fake “cone of silence”? It was Rick Warren who perpetrated that hoax. Rick Warren also has declared that he believes that only people who believe in God should be allowed to become President of the United States. Placing him at a place of honor at the Inauguration in 2009 is a purposeful slap in the face to non-Christian Americans.
Furthermore, placing the words “so help me God” in the official Oath of Office also establishes a religious test for public office. That’s clearly unconstitutional. Article VI, Section 3 of the Constitution states: “The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.” The phrase “so help me God” was never used in any presidential inauguration until 1881, and has been used consistently for less than a century. It has not an integral part of the inauguration at all, but a corruption of the original inaugural ceremonies.
If you want to embrace religion, that’s your right. However, no one simply embraces religion – they embrace a particular religion. Without absolute freedom from religion, no religious American has the right to choose, with equality under the law, which religion to embrace. That’s why the addition of Christian religious rituals to the inauguration are offensive, not just to non-Christians, but also to Christians who believe that the Constitution, and not an official church, should be the foundation of law and freedom in the United States of America. As long as Christianity is favored above all others, in the highest important civic ceremony our nation has, there is no true equality under the law.
Christians are being placed on a level above everybody else in the USA. That’s illegal. It’s unconstitutional. Most significantly, it’s just plain disrespectful. Barack Obama says he wants to use the Inauguration to bring Americans together, but with his Christianity-only Inauguration using a bigoted extremist like Rick Warren, Obama is driving Americans apart.