That is what the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) has determined the government has done with the introduction of a new United States passport. The debut of a new passport means the designs needed to be revamped, of course, but this time around the U.S. State Department decided to include some rather prominent quotes with theistic meanings. Examples of such quotes include:
"May G-d continue the unity of our country as the railroad unites the two great oceans of the world." - inscribed on the Golden Spike, Promontory Point, 1869
"We have a great dream. It started way back in 1776, and G-d grant that America will be true to her dream." - Martin Luther King, Jr.
"This nation, under G-d, shall have a new birth of freedom." - Gettysburg Address by Abraham Lincoln
"The G-d who gave us life, gave us liberty at the same time." - the Jefferson Memorial, Thomas Jefferson
"We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." - excerpt from the Declaration of Independence
To most this may seem like a non-issue, but there are many American citizens who do not identify as theistic, do not believe in solely one G-d, or do not wish to declare such views to others and the FFRF believes that the new passport violates the rights of those American citizens to have a separation between their church and state. In selecting these specific quotes the state has not only established itself as a theistic entity, but a monotheistic one, effectively shutting out a large portion of the American "melting pot". One argument is that many of the quoted have said other inspiring and important messages that do not mention G-d, so why couldn't the State Department have chosen those?
Others, however, are not so swayed by the FFRF's argument. Many feel that the quotations on the passports represent America's history, and because they are quotes, it should be viewed as the state recognizing its past leaders and important moments, not necessarily establishing or endorsing a certain religious viewpoint. Even the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) did not take issue with the new passport, viewing them as perfectly Constitutional. Jordan Sekulow, ACLJ's executive director, said "the Establishment Clause [...] was not designed to prevent 'benign' references to G-d or faith from being made in government" and that these quotes are okay because they "endorse neither a specific faith nor a specific denomination".
Both sides present fair arguments that have me swaying between the two. While I have never been a fan of the historical argument, I believe it may actually have some relevance to this situation, but I still feel that it is wrong to have the government declaring a monotheistic belief, as I have throughout previous discussions of this manner. In addition, this document is not something you can opt out of if you do not agree with the material, like you could with the Pledge of Allegiance or the Bible Oath. If you wish to leave the country and travel as an American citizen, you must present this document, quotes and all, to the customs agent in any and every country you visit. It could potentially then be argued as a burden to someone's free exercise of his or her religion.
Personally, I believe that while these quotes undoubtedly play a role in our country's history, they are not necessary to have in our passports. They add a nice touch, but could just as easily been replaced by quotes of equally historical precedence and American value that do not have theistic themes.
How do you feel? Does this case differ from others that we have talked about? If so, in what way? Are the quotes enough to constitute an establishment of religion, or place a burden on free exercise?