Atheists are obsessed with God — more so than many people of faith.
Atheists are also obsessed with the First Amendment, especially the Establishment Clause.
To many atheists organizations — American Atheists, Freedom from Religion Foundation, and The Military Religious Freedom Foundation — national mottos and statements like “One Nation Under God,” “In God We Trust,” and “So Help Me God” amount to an establishment of religion merely because such words endorse the reality of God.
But endorsement is NOT establishment.
To endorse something is to give public approval of that thing. To establish something is to make that thing an institution. In the context of the First Amendment that thing is a national religion. But God can’t be institutionalized. Creeds and doctrines can.
However, the establishment of a religion — the formal organizing, funding, managing, and proscribing statements of faith — is strictly forbidden by the Constitution. And rightfully so.
The Establishment Clause was written in simple and straightforward language. Congress, the legislative bodies of the U.S. House and Senate, is prohibited from passing any laws institutionalizing a national religion. They “shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.”
Of equal importance to the Establishment Clause is the Free Exercise Clause in the First Amendment.
This Clause is what our fellow citizens who disbelieve in God often forget or ignore. Congress, by force of law, can’t establish a religion. But neither can they, by force of law, “prohibit the free exercise” of religion in the public sphere.
Notwithstanding the Free Exercise Clause, the latest battle by atheists groups is to remove the phrase “so help me God” from the Air Force Academy’s oath of honor.
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