WASHINGTON, D.C. (AP) — Early this morning, President Obama made what could very well prove to be the most controversial move of his presidency with the signing ofExecutive Order 13738, which revokes the federal government’s official recognition ofthe Pledge of Allegiance. Under the new order, it is now illegal for any federally funded agency to display the pledge or for any federal employee to recite, or encourage others to recite, the pledge while on duty. This law also applies to federal contractors and other institutions that receive federal funding such as public schools. Individuals who violate this order can face fines of up to $10,000 and up to one year in federal prison.
During the press conference, the President explained his decision was based on a personal belief that the language used in the pledge is “divisive” and “contrary to America’s deepest held values.”
“The pledge excludes so many Americans who are vital to making this country what it is,” Obama said. “Asking someone to pledge their allegiance to our country excludes Jehovah’s Witnesses, Amish, Muslims, and many others whose religious beliefs prohibit strong displays of nationalism. By calling this ‘one nation under God’, we exclude the millions of hard working atheists and agnostics who call America home. By saying ‘liberty and justice for all’, we ignore the grievances of millions of Hispanics, African Americans and Muslims who feel they have neither liberty nor justice.”
Obama told reporters that he believes the inclusion of “under God” runs afoul of theFirst Amendment’s establishment clause. He summed up his press briefing by challenging congress to create a new pledge that more accurately reflects America’s values.
“I am willing to rescind my decision here today and allow the Pledge of Allegiance back into the schools if we can all agree on the creation of a new Pledge, something that is includes everyone’s beliefs and not just the belief of one nationality or faith.”
Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton has already offered her support of president Obama’s decree and has vowed to uphold the order if she wins in November’s general election. She echoed his concerns about the pledge’s language and suggested that the pledge’s mention of God sends the wrong message to America’s children.
“I fully support the President and the decision that he has made here today. In January, when I take office as the next President of the United States, unless I see otherwise, I will do my best to uphold this new law and ensure that it stays in effect.”
Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump did not mince words when voicing his contempt for the president’s order, referring to the president as an “illegitimate Muslim traitor.”