How much time does the average person take to look at their passport? I mean really examine it? We all flip through it while waiting in lines at the airport, waiting to hand it off to customs officials or border agents. But how much time is spent examining things past the atrocious photo and handful of rubber stamps from previous excursions?
I have traveled quite extensively. Even recently, my summers in university have all been spent either traveling or studying in Europe. I have crossed international borders hundreds of times. My most recent need for my passport was for a security clearance for a visit to Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe here in Belgium.
Flipping through my passport in class, I made a startling discovery. In all of my international endeavors my First Amendment rights had been transgressed upon at the hands of the United States of America.
Specifically, I am alluding to pages 12 and 22. At the top of these pages, much like every page, famous quotes are inscribed at the top. However, these two quotes I found to be over the line. Let me be clear, I am not rehashing the old "In God We Trust" violating the First Amendment debate. For those whose passports are not so readily accessible, or for those who do not have one at all, these two quotes are:
"We have a great dream. It started way back in 1776, and God grant that America will be true to her dream." – Martin Luther King, Jr.
"May God continue the unity of our Country, as this Railroad unites the two great Oceans of the world." - The Golden Spike
These two quotes are in a complete violation of church and state. They are not simply 'Deistic' allusions to a creator, but implicitly religious. I am not trying to diminish the great work of Martin Luther King, Jr. but rather point out the fact that he was a member of clergy. He was a deeply religious man by any standard. Furthermore, he propelled this country into a new dawn of liberty and freedom. I really do not mind that he is quoted, but rather what the quote is about. The phrase "God grant" explicitly denotes the fact that there is a will involved. This goes beyond the simple Creator who endows man with rights, and implies an apparently an omnipotent figure that can influence anything by sheer will.
This same theme runs through the Golden Spike quote as well. The phrasing "May God continue" implies a will and an influence on the past as well as a request for the future. Any way this is cut, the deeply theological implications are blatant. I know some people may be surprised by this, but the belief that God has somehow selected the U.S.A., let alone facilitated human ambitions, is sacrilegious.
I have come to expect and tolerate infractions against the First Amendment from American politicians at all levels of the government. But when I leave the country, I should be free of this nonsense. Yet the first thing I use to formally introduce myself to a country contains that which goes against this great country's founding. My travels are never the result of a religious motivation. So why should I be forced to endure this nuisance?
The reason why I am making such a big deal out of this is the fact that my passport, your passport, and nearly every other passport is property of the State Department. You do not own your passport. The State Department is an extension of the federal government and thus cannot and should not endorse religion. How ironic that what religion is supposed to be separated from is the very department at fault for this transgression. The inclusion of these two quotes clearly violates the separation of church and state. The wall of separation seems to have sprung a few holes. The government needs to repair this clear violation of the First Amendment.