WhiteHouse.gov has created a new feature on its website called We the People, which allows users the ability to create an online petition on any issue you care most about. On September 22, a petition was created to “Edit the Pledge of Allegiance to remove the phrase ‘under God.’” The petition explained that the Pledge “is a government sanctioned speech, and should remain neutral in matters of religion … it supports the existence of God, which goes against several religions, and supports others.”
Over 20,000 signatures were collected, and as a result, the White House issued an official response on behalf of the Obama administration.
Here is the response from Joshua DuBois, director of the Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships:
Religion in the Public Square
By 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.
The petition and the White House’s response can be viewed here on the We the People website.
What do you think about the White House’s response? Tell us in the comments section below.