Religion in the Public Square: The U.S. Motto
By Josh DuBois
Thank you for participating in the We the People platform on WhiteHouse.gov. You recently signed a petition asking the Administration to change the motto of the United States from “In God We Trust” to “E pluribus unum.”
As you may know, the national motto of the United States was codified in 1956 through legislation passed by Congress and signed into law by President Eisenhower. As such, any change in the law would require Congressional action.
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 and as our national motto. 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.
Joshua DuBois is Executive Director of the Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships