Yesterday, a group of Pagans, universalists, and atheists went to the Mobile County Commission (in Alabama) to request they put up displays reading things like “In Reason We Trust.” It was in response to a recent vote to put “In God We Trust” on a plaque in the city’s Administration Building.
So how did that go? Well, the people who spoke in support of the atheist display were perfectly reasonable:
[Amanda] Scott said that “in reason we trust” was an accurate expression of the atheist group and deserved to be displayed if “in God We Trust” is posted.
Fred Rettig, a Mobile resident, said that even as a Christian that he respected the atheist faith and agreed that they should have equal credence.
“If you give them [Christians] three words,” Rettig said, “give them [atheists] three words,” he said.
[Mobile Atheist Community co-founder Dustin] Chalker, a US Army veteran and Purple Heart recipient, stood next. Chalker is an adviser for the Military Religious Freedom Association and upon returning home to Mobile after nine years of service, began MAC.
“We are not anti-religion, we are not anti-Christian,” he said of MAC. “We don’t bother you. We left you alone until somebody decided to mark their territory ‘in God We Trust,'” Chalker said.
And how did the critics respond?
Chris Patrick, of Mobile, said that he believes Christians feel attacked. “God spoke audibly through the hood of my car,” he said, and from then on, he has been spreading his faith.
Oh, this should be good…
“This country was founded by the gospel of Jesus Christ,” said [ex-congressional candidate Dean] Young. “That’s why people of other faiths have asylum.”
He said the real question is “which God we’re talking about.”
“This is not a Muslim nation, this is a Christian nation,” Young said. “Our national motto is the national motto and we shouldn’t put random statements by random groups on the wall.” He added that the country needs to get “back on track” by believing in God.
How’s that for dismissing everyone who’s not Christian? Those “random groups” just push our country off-track.
What about the next guy?
“I come before you as a conservative baptist, a civil libertarian,” said David Preston. He said the commissioners probably had kids and knew what it was like when they were upset. “When you let one child do something and the other whines and throws a fit, they lose interest when you let them do it,” he said. Preston proposed letting other plaques be displayed because he said it would be “calling their bluff” and that it wouldn’t really happen.
“They want the denial so they can make a bigger fuss,” he concluded.
I think he found a way to be on our side while simultaneously criticizing us… but go ahead. Call the bluff. We’ll play that game anytime.
And you bet your ass we’ll make a fuss when Christianity is given special treatment in government settings.
Youth pastor Daniel McGuire said that the entire issue could be likened to tattoos.
He said that he has a tattoo of his last name and family motto. “I wouldn’t personally tattoo that on someone else,” McGuire said. “Why would we tattoo someone else’s motto on our building like graffiti on a train?”
For the same reason your personal tattoo doesn’t deserve a special spot in a government setting. It may be a motto, but it’s being displayed purely because it’s a religious motto. If the motto were “E pluribus unum,” you can bet that conservative Christians wouldn’t give a damn about displaying it anywhere.
Charles Wyckoff said that precedence is key. “We’re going to run out of wall,” he said of letting other faiths display their messages. He argued that “we could call the United States the Divided States because we are not united anymore.”
There’s a simple solution to that: Don’t display the Christian plaque that divides people in this town.
It’s ironic, really, to make an argument about non-Christians dividing this country when it’s “Under God” that divides the words “One nation, indivisible” in the Pledge of Allegiance.
After all that, the commissioners (with the exception of one) decided the Christian plaque would still be displayed and everyone else didn’t matter.
My favorite comment, though, may be one made in an online thread by someone who wasn’t at the meeting:
Please let Ms Scott know that she is welcome to put up her own building (with the proper permits) and put what ever plaque she would like.. But as for me and mine, we will serve the Lord
As if the government buildings are automatically Christian…
Amanda Scott told me (via email) that after the discussion she went up to Dean Young, the politician, to introduce herself and thank him for voicing his opinion, even if they disagreed:
He said “Remember what I said now,” referring back to a part in his testimony where he said God would basically cast his wrath upon the Commission and the City if they allowed us to put up our own plaques.
Isn’t that sweet of him?