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« The Inaugural Address - Off the Cuff The RantsUpdate: Chiropractic Treatments Are Still Bullshit »

In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash
2005.01.25 (Tue) 15:43

God is for Suckers directed us to the following news story (all quotations from this story):

Republicans Push For 'In God We Trust' Banners In Libraries


Pasco Republican leader Bill Bunting ... recently asked county commissioners to hang banners with the inscription "In God We Trust," along with American flags, in public meeting rooms at the county's seven libraries.

"It's very simple. It's not political. It involves all parties," Bunting said this week.

Oh, of course, it's not political at all. How could anyone think that, particularly in today's political climate?

What Bunting fails to grasp is that it only "involves all parties" who happen to believe that their lives are controlled by an invisible magic superhero who lives in the sky — while excluding and irritating those who take a more rational approach to reality.

"This country was founded on Judeo-Christian values."

Or not.

"If you're an atheist, and you don't like it, you can put a banner over it and take [the banner] down when you leave."

Wait a minute — you mean that, if we don't like something, we can just (so to speak) change the channel? Why, this changes everything! Perhaps if the fundamentalist assholes are so offended by the content presented to them in the media, they can put a banner over it so they don't have to see it! How ingenious.

Bunting has recruited state Rep. Gus Bilirakis, R-Palm Harbor, to buy new American flags for the county's public libraries. Bilirakis said he supported Bunting's efforts to hang "In God We Trust" banners or plaques.

"We have it on our currency, and our country was founded under God," said Bilirakis, who is Greek Orthodox. "People have other beliefs, and we should respect that, but our country was founded on Judeo-Christian values, and I don't think we should get away from that."

Well, if we have it on our currency, it can't possibly be unconstitutional, right? Or, just perhaps, it's also a problem that we have it on our currency in the first place.

Bunting takes the argument a step further.

"We're getting a little tired of our country chipping away at our rights," he said. "Us Republicans feel very strongly about that, and that was a big issue in the [presidential] campaign. If you have an objection to it, just ignore it. If you think it's terrible, don't go into that building."

Two points:

One, that's amazingly brilliant! If you don't like something, avoid it? Wow, it takes an extraordinary mind to come up with a strategy like that. Somebody should let Michael Powell know about this fantastic new concept.

Two, what the fuck is he saying? It's okay to make it difficult or uncomfortable for citizens to enter a public library? Hey, while we're at it, why don't we have a separate entrance for atheists. Separate drinking fountains might help, too.

County Administrator John Gallagher at a recent county commission meeting told Bunting he would hang the "In God We Trust" banners in the libraries, but this week he said he's unsure whether the signs are legal.


Gallagher later said he would ask the county attorney's office for an opinion.

"I don't know whether they are legal or not," Gallagher said. "I'll ask them to look into it. This is on our dollar bill. I'm getting [federal] mandates saying I have to give a share of grant money to faith-based organizations. I think the issue of separation of church and state may be getting cloudy."

No, the issue of separation of church and state isn't cloudy — the fundies are just trying to muddy up the waters with a little misdirection and razzle dazzle, and logic based on flawed premises. Stating that the "In God We Trust" banners should be legal because the same motto is printed on our currency ignores the fact that it shouldn't be on our currency in the first place.

This is the same as the basis for our support of Michael Newdow's fight against including "Under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance. Each "little" thing — the Pledge of Allegiance, the Ten Commandments monuments, the prayer invocation before SCOTUS hearings, the religious motto on our currency — only seems little when taken by itself; but every little thing is just another item the fundamentalists can point at and say, "You allowed that, so this is just as lawful." It lends support to their opposition to the separation of church and state, by knocking out little holes in that wall — which makes it that much easier, in the long run, to destroy the wall entirely. If you want to stop the "big plan," you need to fight each little step in the plan.

Assistant County Administrator Dan Johnson said his department operates under the policy that "In God We Trust" signs are legal in public buildings.

"We have gotten legal advice that the courts have ruled on this, and it is acceptable," Johnson said.

The issue rings similar to a debate about Christmas trees, which Gallagher and Johnson temporarily outlawed at public buildings in December after the county attorney's office said religious displays could expose the county to legal problems. The opinion, given after a Jewish man questioned the policy and was told he could not display a menorah in front of a library, said displays could cause problems if they are accompanied by negative opinions regarding religion, religious holidays or obscene symbols.

The county attorney's office later clarified the opinion, saying Christmas trees decorated in garland, snowflakes, Santas and even menorahs may be displayed at Pasco County government buildings, as long as they are accompanied by a patriotic message. The opinion is based on the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that Christmas trees without nativity scenes or religious ornaments are nonreligious symbols and therefore may be displayed at county property. A menorah with a Christmas tree also is not considered religious, but it, too, must be displayed with a "salute to liberty."

A long-standing county policy allows various holiday displays at public buildings.

There is a fine line between "display" and "endorsement." Establishing the former can easily imply the latter. However, we believe there is a difference.

Putting a Christmas tree up, aside from the fact that today's Christmas is no longer a Christian holiday, is pretty damned inoffensive. Same thing with a menorah. Icons like these, and signs wishing others "Merry Christmas," "Happy Chanukah," or just "Happy Holidays," are just friendly acknowledgements of the special days that various cultures celebrate. Saying "Merry Christmas" — even to people who don't celebrate the holiday — is meant to convey a wish for another person's happiness and enjoyment of the day.

But when you are legally affirming the existence of, and your reliance on, an invisible magical superhero in the sky — or any deity — then you are doing much more than celebrating a special occasion. You are endorsing a particular religious belief, which is expressly forbidden by the Establishment Clause. Our system of law and government is not based on religion, but on common need and ethical behavior (both of which are elements of most religions, but which are not, themselves, based on religion). "God made me do it!" is not a valid legal defense in our court system — this suggests that even the fundamentalists realize that "real world" accountability must be a matter of evidence and factual observation. Because of this, any official or legal confirmation of a religious belief made by the government is both unconstitutional and absurd.

Every little step the government allows brings us one step closer to the rule of biblical law. That is why we fight over the little things.

— • —
[  Filed under: % Government & Politics  % Religion  ]


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