As I pointed out earlier in the week, Republican lawmakers in Oklahoma are trying to pass a bill, HB 3817, that would require all state-run buildings (including public schools) to display the words “In God We Trust.” It’s a bill that’s likely to pass given the makeup of the legislature.
But atheists are at least trying to point out the problems to anyone who will listen.
For example, the groups Oklahoma Atheists and the Atheist Community of Tulsa, whose members lobbied at the State Capitol on Wednesday, say that this is a huge waste of money. Rather than pay for the signs with private donations, as some states have done, taxpayers will be funding everything. Technically, it’s the “Office of Management and Enterprise Services.” According to the state’s own OMES analysts, that will boil down to “$250 per building” — or “$85,500” altogether. And that’s just for starters.
“It’s basically a waste of taxpayer money because not only will these things have to be funded, they’ll have be maintained,” [assistant Oklahoma state director for American Atheists Alex] Newman said. “Essentially, we’re talking tens of thousands of dollars potentially wasted of taxpayer money that could go to things like schools, that could go to state infrastructure, things that are more important than this.”
Beyond that, of course, the motto itself is just a religious slogan wrapped in patriotic clothing. It’s exclusionary. It obviously dismisses atheists and others who don’t believe in God. But make no mistake, “In God We Trust” isn’t meant to appease Muslims or Jews either.
“Plastering ‘In God We Trust’ on every public building in Oklahoma is exclusionary. It sends the harmful message to atheists, agnostics, Buddhists, Hindus, and other polytheists that they are unwelcome in Oklahoma,” said Tim Ward, American Atheists’ Oklahoma state director, who submitted an opposition letter to committee. “The government is supposed to represent everyone equally, not show preference to one religious group over all others.”
The problem is that the sensible people are lobbying while the right-wing Christians who want to use the government to promote their faith are the ones in charge.