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Sep 03 2012

In God We MUST

There is God along my drive to work—the church upon the hill
There is God in every pocket; He’s on every dollar bill
But I saw an empty courthouse wall—it nearly made me ill!
So you know, I’m only doing what I must!

There was godless empty space there, so I had to take a stand,
And in similar locations all across our blessed land
Every courthouse in the country, if they meet with my demand
Will display, for all to see, “In God We Trust”

It reminds us all that, really, it was God who gave us rights
So we’ll put His name upon the walls, in everybody’s sights
And never mind the atheists—they always lose these fights—
There’s no reason we should hear them out at all

Now, in near 300 counties, there’s a useful little perk:
Every councilman and woman, every jurist, every clerk
Has the right to be a Christian, and to spend the day at work
With “In God We Trust” emblazoned on the wall

Via the Tulare County Atheists, a report on In God We Trust–America, whose mission is

“To Promote Patriotism
By Encouraging Elected Officials
To Legally Display Our National Motto,
“In God We Trust”
In Every City, County and State Chamber in America”

IGWT-A is the work of Jacquie Sullivan, who expected more resistance to the idea of promoting God in a culture where only 80% of her fellow citizens are Christians:

Sullivan said she at first expected that “In God We Trust” would be challenged in court, but so far no lawsuit has targeted a city or county.
Cities frequently ignore her letters urging adoption, Sullivan said, but if the motto gets on the agenda it almost always passes.

Why on earth would anyone object?

The most common argument against it is that the “establishment” clause of the First Amendment bans the government from getting involved in religion, she said.

“It’s a misconception. I’m not a scholar, but it was referring to not having a state church,” Sullivan said. “This is a free-speech issue.”
In Kings County, Iraq War veteran Richard Leach, 29, spoke against the motto proposal at the board of supervisors meeting.
“Government should be a neutral zone for people who are believers and those who are not,” Leach said. “It alienates a certain portion of the population.”

She’s not a scholar on this, but… The proper punctuation on that sentence should be a period after “this”.

As the Tulare County Atheists report notes, the placing of the motto is (or would be) an example of “ceremonial deism”, a spin that allows clear but historic violations of the establishment clause to continue, constitutionally, under the argument that this mention of “God” does not actually refer to the Christian God, or any other particular god, but rather to some impotent bit of fluff, a cardboard cutout god that’s mostly there to add three syllables between “one nation” and “indivisible”.

Back when I was a Christian, I’d have found this offensive.

9 comments

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  1. 1
    Randomfactor

    Last time I checked, their nonprofit corporation had lapsed for failure to file properly. Anybody want to take it on as an educational project?

    http://kepler.sos.ca.gov/cbs.aspx (Search form, search for “In God We Trust” and you’ll see it at the bottom of the page.

    (BTW, this group of loonies has succeeded in placing a poster in every high school classroom in Bakersfield with the “national motto” elevated above both the Constitution and Bill of Rights in placement.)

  2. 2
    Randomfactor

    Oh, are they conducting business under a suspended corporation name? That could be Very Bad for them…

    http://www.rhlaw.com/blog/suspended-corporations/

  3. 3
    Cuttlefish

    Ok, Randomfactor, I am just a bit gobsmacked. This was the first I had even heard of IGWT-A, and you are already on top of it?

    They are indeed “suspended” (did you notice the apostolic church misspelled itself?); it would seem that this particular phrase is an unlucky name; only one entity out of 8 is still active!

    I remember (cos my dad was superintendent of schools) there were religious objections all the time in local districts (never by atheists; always by minority religions); one wonders whether the blasphemy charges in Pakistan against the Christian girl might alert the majority here to protect minority views on the off chance they might someday be in the minority…

  4. 4
    Cuttlefish

    RF@#2–wait, what?

    Please tell me you are a high-powered lawyer in California…

  5. 5
    Randomfactor

    I wish. Just a lackey with the misfortune to LIVE in Bakersfield. But it would take just $380 and a form to take over the corporate name, since they’ve been so foolish as to let it lapse. Anyone could do it…

    The IGWT posters at the local high schools were pushed through by a district trustee who runs a local church (and thinks of the high school district as an extension of it.) He was making noises about Intelligent Design Creationism a few years back but got talked out of it, I think, by the local Republican machine.

    There’s a nascent local atheist group but we’ve decided at this point to let the sleeping dog of the posters lie in favor of other things.

  6. 6
    Cuttlefish

    If I had a spare $380, I’d be sending it your way, and you’d be ruing the day you volunteered for the front lines. Lucky you, I have tuition bills to pay first.

  7. 7
    Randomfactor

    All my spare cash is tied up in friends’ problems…

  8. 8
    D-Dave

    Surely this is something that you could get people to donate to a pool for? It wouldn’t take very many donations of $10, $20 or $50 to make Randomfactor the proud new owner of his very own corporate name, would it? I can think of worse ideas that have had successful fundraising drives…

  9. 9
    Cuttlefish

    RF has not volunteered for this job, to the best of my knowledge! I agree, it could be done, but (not knowing the local politics) it might be asking for RF to paint a big bull’s-eye on xir back.

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