It seems that some liberals — notably the Freedom from Religion Foundation and MSNBC's Lawrence O'Donnell — are upset that the swearing-in ceremony for the president of the United States includes references to religion and the use of a Bible.
On Friday, the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) demanded that President Obama remove language referencing God.
"The Constitution, which prescribes the oath in Art. 2, Sect. 1, does not contain the “so help me God” language or require use of a bible," FRFF says on its website. "As FFRF has always done before presidential inaugurations, we are asking President Obama to honor the Constitution on Jan. 21 by omitting that religious verbiage from the Oath of Office."
FFRF attorney Andrew L. Seidel challenged Obama to "eliminate the religious verbiage" contained in the oath.
"While you’re at it," he added, "why not place your hand on the Constitution instead of a bible? The oath, laid out in Article 2, Section 1 of the Constitution, is secular (no hand on the bible, no 'so help me God'): 'I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.'"
The added phrase dates back to George Washington, who used the phrase at his inauguration in 1789.
"The oath was read slowly and distinctly, Washington at the same time laying his hand on the open Bible. When it was concluded, he replied solemnly, 'I swear — so help me God!' Mr. Otis would have raised the Bible to his lips, but he bowed down reverently and kissed it," Washington Irving wrote.
In addition to the FRFF, MSNBC's Lawrence O'Donnell said the Bible should not be used because in his view, it is "filled with things that no one in the United States of America believes."
“It turns out there is no better way for a pastor to get kicked out of the inauguration ceremony than quoting the Bible,” he said on Thursday.
“That is what Louie Giglio, of Passion City Church in Atlanta, did to get knocked out of this year’s inauguration," O'Donnell said. "His participation was announced at 9 a.m. on Tuesday by the Presidential Inaugural Committee. It took all of a day for something to surface in his Giglio’s sermonizing past that made him persona non grata at the swearing-in of a president who is in favor of gay rights, including marriage equality.”
"The intolerant Left claims another scalp," tweeted liberal columnist Kirsten Powers.
“We will ensure that whoever delivers the benediction rejects the same parts of the Bible that President Obama rejects and most Democrats reject, even though every word of the Bible is the word of God,” O'Donnell announced before claiming that parts of the Bible are universally rejected.
"As I've pointed out," he added, "no one accepts all of the teachings of the Bible. No one."
"Still, the president, following one of our most absurdest traditions in the government that invented the separation of church and state, will put his hand on this book filled with things he does not believe – filled with things that no one in the United States of America believes – and with his hand on this book he will recite the oath of office," he said.
O'Donnell then suggested Obama place his hands on one of his daughters instead.
“Now, wouldn’t it be better if the president’s hand was on the shoulder of one of his daughters, suggesting that he was honoring the oath of office as much as he honors Sasha and Malia?” he asked.
The Constitution does not specify the use of a Bible, nor does it prohibit the use of the book. But the tradition dates back to George Washington, who used one from St. John’s Masonic Lodge No. 1 for his swearing-in on April 30, 1789.
Since then, presidents have used Bibles with historic or personal significance.
According to reports, Obama intends to use not one Bible, but two; one owned by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and one owned by Abraham Lincoln.
He would be the fourth to do so, following Harry Truman, Dwight Eisenhower and Richard Nixon.