(Photo: AP Images / Jae C. Hong)
President Barack Obama will be taking the oath of office for the second time on Jan. 21, 2013. And atheists want him to do so without mentioning "God" and without a Bible.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation sent Obama a letter following his re-election, asking him to reject the way "this country politicizes religion."
"When you stand to reaffirm your oath, do so using the language of the Founders. Eliminate the religious verbiage. While you're at it, why not place your hand on the Constitution instead of a bible?" FFRF attorney Andrew L. Seidel wrote in the letter.
The words "so help me God" are not included in the oath as prescribed by the Constitution, the organization argues. The Constitution also does not require the president to place his hand on a Bible when taking oath, FFRF adds.
When Obama took office in 2009, he repeated after Justice John Roberts: "I, Barack Hussein Obama do solemnly swear that I will execute the Office of President of the United States faithfully and will to the best of my ability preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States, so help me God."
FFRF argues that "so help me God" violates the Constitution as it alienates the nonreligious, which the organization believes is the future of America.
Since this is Obama's second term, FFRF says he is not "beholden to any future constituency."
"This term is a chance to do something that no president in recent memory has done: reach out to secular Americans. In the past, that might have been politically costly. But this recent election shows that it will be politically costly not to reach out to secular America," FFRF wrote. "We are the future. Use this second term to build a legacy by rejecting the way this country politicizes religion."
Atheist Michael Newdow tried to take the issue ("so help me God") to court but was refused a hearing by the U.S. Supreme Court last year.
The FFRF doesn't plan to file any lawsuit but is imploring the president to honor the "secular intent of the oath."
Atheist Hemant Mehta doesn't believe it's a big deal or that any real harm would be done if Obama does recite "so help me God."
But, he argues, "every time we let something like this slip, the Religious Right adds it to their giant list of Ways to Trick People Into Thinking We're a Christian Nation. Let's not let the occasion pass without at least posing a challenge."