On Monday night, American Atheists’ National Program Director Nick Fish was in Arkansas at a meeting of the Bentonville School District board to make an offer: Because Arkansas is a state that now requires schools to display the phrase “In God We Trust,” Fish wanted to donate 1,000 posters that put the religious motto in proper context:
“In God We Trust” is still on there, as is the U.S. flag and Arkansas state flag. So it fulfills everything the law requires.
“We’re pleased to donate these displays that present the full truth and historical context of our national motto,” Fish said in a statement. “Proponents of Act 911, including Bentonville’s State Representative Jim Dotson, claim that mandating these displays is about acknowledging our nation’s ‘history and heritage’ in classrooms. But we think students deserve all the facts, not just a poster of an exclusionary and divisive motto devoid of any additional context or information.”
He makes a great point. And no surprise here: The school board rejected his offer. But take a look at their statement explaining that decision:
Bentonville schools released a statement, saying, “Our schools should not serve as the backdrop for political agendas, regardless of the viewpoint.”
Their claim is that American Atheists is pushing an agenda, implying that State Rep. Jim Dotson and his “In God We Trust” signs are not. That’s incredibly ignorant. The only reason so many states are pushing these religious displays is to advance a religious agenda. It even has a name!
Dotson himself made that agenda clear when he was promoting his legislation, saying in this interview (at the 2:09 mark) that the sign is all about “acknowledgement of God in public life.”
The District can’t have it both ways. They can’t say atheists, who are merely offering context to the religious motto, are pushing an agenda, while conservative Christians, who openly declare their desire to push their faith in public schools, are somehow neutral.
This is what Christian privilege looks like. Promoting the Christian God is the default setting at this school. Separation of church and state — or even educating students on the history of the motto — is apparently part of some liberal conspiracy.
(Thanks to Brian for the link)