Chaz Stevens, already busy this winter putting up Festivus poles around the country, has a new goal in mind for 2016: Wherever he sees elected officials putting up “In God We Trust” signs in city hall, he’s going to request they also put up an “In Satan We Trust” sign.
Arguing for separation of church and state, Stevens has made it a mission to end prayer at public meetings. He cites a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision that determined prayer is allowed at government meetings provided it applies to all religions, including Satanism, Stevens argues.
To be sure, it’s not likely this plan will be work. While invocations and holiday displays must be open to people of any faith and no faith, the reason “In God We Trust” signs are allowed to go up is because politicians can just say “This has nothing to do with promoting Christianity; it’s out national motto!”
That label doesn’t apply to the pro-Satan phrase.
So how does Stevens plan to make any headway? I asked him and he told me this:
I’m following [Michael] Newdow’s approach … using the Hobby Lobby ruling … I maintain the government has no right to burden a person’s religious beliefs without a strong reason … who is the “we”, in God We Trust? I trust Satan, not god … and we opine the RFRA should give us a religious exemption, as my beliefs are spurned by the phrase IGWT.
It’s worth pointing out that Newdow, who fought to remove “In God We Trust” from our currency, lost that case. Whether you like it or not, the judges said the phrase is not “governmental sponsorship of a religious exercise.”
Still, there’s an upside to fighting this battle in that people might now think about how the “In God We Trust” phrase really does exclude people who believe differently. It’s all the more reason for citizens to push back when the idea comes up in their towns.