The constitution states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…” This phrase, while not the exact words “the separation of church and state” provides that meaning in two ways. Firstly, it prevents the government from controlling religious beliefs. Secondly, it also prevents the government from promoting belief in any particular god or gods or religious doctrine.
Despite these constitutional restrictions, religion is still obviously present in our government. A fine example is the statement “In God we trust” on our money. According to the U.S. Department of the Treasury, the phrase first appeared on the 1864 two-cent coin. It was incrementally added to other coins and was first added to paper money in 1957. On July 30, 1956, President Dwight D. Eisenhower approved a law passed by the 84th Congress declaring “In God we trust” as the official motto of the U.S.
This clearly violates the First Amendment. By creating an official motto of the U.S. that unites us under one “God”, Congress and the president had made a law “respecting an establishment of religion.” They promote Christianity and disrespect other religions that are practiced in this country. According to the Pew Research Center, as of 2014 the U.S. population is about 1.9 percent Jewish, 0.9 percent Muslim, 0.7 percent Buddhist and 22.8 percent not affiliated with religion (this includes Atheists, Agnostics and others). In their fear of communism (in 1956) they wanted to separate the U.S. from the Soviet Union, but instead they promoted hate and distrust.
The U.S. then and now is certainly ruled by Christianity. I do not believe it is wrong to worship a single God or to be a Christian. On the other hand, I do believe it is wrong for the government to promote Christianity above all other religions and step on the rights of other religions. It is the responsibility of all branches of government to remain neutral and unbiased.
Unfortunately, we see God on our money, in our schools and in our presidential candidates. No president would openly admit to being anything but Christian if they wanted to be elected. Schools are required to encourage the Pledge of Allegiance and evolution is a taboo topic. Christians are entitled to private schools but imagine the reaction to a school for Atheists or Buddhists.
The interference of religion in government serves only to promote fear, hate and distrust of other religions or those without a religion. In order to promote peace and unity, the word “God” should be removed from all government.
*Veronica Milligan is a member of the Secular Student Alliance*