The White House has responded to two petitions on its We The People website that got enough votes to force such a response. One would remove the phrase “under God” from the pledge of allegiance and another would remove “In God We Trust” from our currency. Josh Dubois, Executive Director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, wrote the response:
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.
This is a purely political response, of course. Obama and his advisers know that pushing that issue can only hurt them, no matter how he might feel personally about it (and I doubt he much cares about it at all). It might make folks like us happy but we are very small minority and the backlash it would create would be nothing but trouble for them in next year’s election.