President Obama Mentions Non-Believers in Religious Freedom Day Proclamation

Turns out President Obama did something else meaningful today: He signed a Presidential Proclamation declaring it Religious Freedom Day — and he didn’t forget to include non-religious Americans in the mix:

Because of the protections guaranteed by our Constitution, each of us has the right to practice our faith openly and as we choose. As a free country, our story has been shaped by every language and enriched by every culture. We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus, Sikhs and non-believers. Our patchwork heritage is a strength we owe to our religious freedom.

Today, we also remember that religious liberty is not just an American right; it is a universal human right to be protected here at home and across the globe. This freedom is an essential part of human dignity, and without it our world cannot know lasting peace.

I suppose it went unnoticed that he signed the proclamation “in the year of our Lord two thousand thirteen”… but slow clap for lip service.

For what it’s worth, this is nothing new for Obama.

Last year, he also mentioned non-believers in his proclamation:

Drafted by Thomas Jefferson, the Virginia Statute formed the basis for the First Amendment, which has preserved religious freedom for both believers and non-believers for over 220 years. As our Nation has grown, so too has its diversity of faiths, cultures, and traditions; today, individuals of rich and varied beliefs call America home and seek to follow their consciences in peace. Our long history of religious tolerance and pluralism has strengthened our country, helped create a vibrant civil society, and remained true to the principles enshrined in our founding documents.

In 2011, he made an oblique reference to us:

The writ of the Founding Fathers has upheld the ability of Americans to worship and practice religion as they choose, including the right to believe in no religion at all.

In 2010, same thing:

Long before our Nation’s independence, weary settlers sought refuge on our shores to escape religious persecution on other continents. Recognizing their strife and toil, it was the genius of America’s forefathers to protect our freedom of religion, including the freedom to practice none at all.

President Bush didn’t make an overt reference to non-believers in 2009, though the general idea of religious freedom was there, as one might expect.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the chair of Foundation Beyond Belief and a high school math teacher in the suburbs of Chicago. He began writing the Friendly Atheist blog in 2006. His latest book is called The Young Atheist's Survival Guide.

  • Achron Timeless

    Well, a token nod is still a nod. More than we would’ve gotten from Romney, unless it was part of a list of people that needed to be removed from the country.

    • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

      I wouldn’t have worried so much about lists under Romney. Rickelle Perrachorum, yes.

      • Achron Timeless

        Ah, but you forget. His position on anything changed as soon as someone told him it did. Just because you wouldn’t have worried one week doesn’t mean the next week wouldn’t be rather scary depending on who he talked to.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=504525766 Michael Harbour

    Yeah. I definitely noticed “in the year of our Lord ” – a step forward; a step back today.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Tiffany-Harding/1322662990 Tiffany Harding

    if he had left it out, the right wing would have had a field day. c’mon, you know they would have. and besides, we at least got a mention, which is more than other presidents have done. but seriously, complaining about the “year of our lord” stuff is silly. deal with it, we’ve got bigger fish to fry. the country is no where near accepting us…small steps. at least we got a mention.

    • Kevin S.

      Actually, the “Year of our Lord” language doesn’t just exclude atheists and agnostics. It’s an explicitly Christian phrase (since the “Lord” in question is Jesus) that also excludes Jews, Muslims, Hindus, etc., making it problematic in a document celebrating religious freedom and diversity (beyond the separation of church and state problems).

      Personally, I eagerly await the election of our first openly non-Christian president to see how they handle this text that forces the speaker or signer to acknowledge Jesus as his lord.

      • http://absurdlypointless.blogspot.com/ Bubba Tarandfeathered

        Sadly I don’t think we will live long enough to see that. Our movement, at least here in the US, is nowhere near that maturity nor does it have the constituency to get a Non-Believer elected. Maybe in 50, 75 or a hundred years from now. Traditionalism will prevail for a long time and even though the most recent generation of college graduates mostly identify as “Nones” traditionalism still holds sway over their votes.

        • Kevin S.

          I wasn’t necessarily thinking of an atheist or agnostic. My guess is the first non-Christian U.S. president will probably be Jewish, since right-wing Christians go on enough about America’s “Judeo-Christian” culture that they’ll find it hard to oppose a Jewish candidate on religious grounds.

  • Good and Godless

    How about:

    “We are a nation of christians and muslims, jews, hindus, sikhs and Non-Believers.”

  • YouHaveMoreThanTwoChoices

    What is the reasoning for including non-believers?

    Non-believers do not celebrate religion they are persecuted by religious people at every turn. They are the victims of religious favoritism in government, in our laws almost everywhere you turn. Please explain the benefits of inclusion. I need to read them.

    Is this the only language religious people understand? Is this some coexist bumper sticker esque attempt to get religious bullies to accept the non-religious in thiscountry? I understood their books to be specifically promote the extinction of the non-believer.

    You can’t have it both ways !

    “in the year of our Lord two thousand thirteen” A perfect example of a divisive phrase. And how religion causes harm. There are about 3000 known lords and non-believers obviously do not consider any of them “ours” in any way shape or form. The use of this phrase and The god bless America phrase used at the end of every presidential speech does irreparable harm.
    Go ahead and fry your bigger fish but recognize this for what
    it is, insidious continuous propaganda promoting religious favoritism over the
    non-believers, the “nones”.

    New years needs a new start date !

  • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

    I suppose it went unnoticed that he signed the proclamation “in the year of our Lord two thousand thirteen”

    I assume at this point that’s just part of the official proclamation form, just kind of automatically “there”, and nobody has bothered to change the template. Yet.

  • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

    I’ll take “In the Year of our Lord”, seeing as how he signed it on Janus’s month (and on Odin’s day, although not explicitly stated).

  • http://absurdlypointless.blogspot.com/ Bubba Tarandfeathered

    It is too bad that we still only get the lower case distinction of “non-believer” verses the upper case distinction of the religions mentioned in the Proclamation.

    • newavocation

      Yes, he needs to identify us as “Atheists” and put us first in the list since we begin with the letter A.

      • http://absurdlypointless.blogspot.com/ Bubba Tarandfeathered

        Ha ha! But seriously folks we need to get at least Humanism recognized as a legitimate movement.

  • William

    I really don’t like the term “non-believer”. It insinuates that there is, in fact, something to believe in. It’s insulting. If the theists want to call me anything, call me a Realist.