Tuesday, November 15, 2005
  In God We Trust?
Very close to where I live a government building put a huge "In God We Trust" sign up. The Supremes .rejected the appeal put forth when lawyers failed to get their way on a local level.

Naturally Michael Newdow wants to get IGWT removed from money since that was part of the reasoning behind the courts rejection of the original case. He says "it violates the religious rights of atheists who belong to his "First Amendment Church of True Science." And they say atheism isn't a religion.

The money thing is a tradition and I see no harm in it. If we replaced it with "In Satan We Trust" or "In Humanity We Trust" or simply did away with the motto entirely I wouldn't care. Any of those options might at least speak more truth into the way our country is run.

Point is I don't see why we should take it off. I know it offends some people. I know that it's a wink to our country's religious past. I know that our Constitution is supposed to protect the minority and atheists (at least some atheists) feel like they're a persecuted minority. They'll say that "this won't infringe on our right to worship so where does it harm us". And they'd be right.

I say it doesn't infringe on their right not to and I'd be right. It doesn't require any religious practice to spend money, though some do so religiously. It doesn't establish laws respecting the establishment of a religion. It is, imo, an homage to the spirit that brought people thousands of miles to a country that they knew nothing about. They came to this country because they trusted God/Providence/The Creator to provide for them a place to work their butts off and make a new home. One where they could be free of governments that wanted to take their right to worship away (at best) or kill them (at worst).

I say that we can honor that spirit, the same way that we honor the dead presidents that also adorn our money, without harm or foul to people who don't believe in that same force. What do you say?
Here's what I see as the problems with these sorts of situations.

First, those concerned about these sorts of religious signifiers seem concerned because "In God We Trust" says "In Christ We Trust" to them.

They would argue, I think, that it's not deism that's supported by such displays (a mode of thought and belief embraced by the Founders) but rather, Christianity.

This group of people can be roughly subdivided into two camps:
a) Those who believe there should be a hard line separation between Church and State, and
b)Those who are not religious, and resent being preached to (Newdow falls into this camp).

Both these groups succeed in doing little but angering those who DO believe that God and government are not mutually exclusive.

I tend to agree with the Supreme Court's reasoning that "some" religious items/sayings/symbols have attained a social/cultural ubiquity that transcends their specific religious significance, but the trouble with that reasoning is that it then falls to the Court to decide, over and again, when that line is crossed. There's too much power in the Court already, for my taste.

How does one decide when something is "too religious" to qualify for that status? How much time and how much use of a phrase/symbol is required to transform it into something beyond religious propaganda? The Court doesn't make it clear that even they know the answer to that.

"In God We Trust" is cited often as an example of a phrase that's become near-secular in the way its used (ie: on money), but it's really only been around since the cold war, where it was used to differentiate us from the godless communist hordes.

Never mind the irony of money (something the Bible renders unto Ceasar) being branded with faith in a deity. Is that length of time enough to transform the phrase past its religious and arguably Christian origins?

I ask these questions, but truthfully I've got no answer for them. What I can say with surety is that the founding fathers never intended Christianity to be the religion of this country. As Adams wrote, "Christianity neither is, nor ever was a part of the common law...I am for freedom of religion, & against all maneuvres to bring about a legal ascendancy of one sect over another."

It's a slippery slope at day's end. I tend to believe, personally, that its better to allow these sorts of displays in deference to people's personal faith than to allow a more serious and policy-altering intrusion of religion into lawmaking or governence. Giving up a little to gain a lot, if you will.

Removing all outward signifiers will only encourage extremists to increase their efforts to remake the core of the country. Keep the signs if it makes people feel better, but keep a respect for the beliefs of others.
I agree that the Court hasn't been terribly clear, but here are my thoughts on that. Since IGWT and other such references to Christianity have been around and on gov't buildings for well over a hundred years and has been used on coins since the 1800's does it only extend to old things? Should there be a grandfather clause and have no new buildings with that motto?

And consider the other symbols (which I believe are Masonic in nature) on our bills. Should we remove those as well?

I agree we should respect others. Where there are clergy that are active in gov't roles (Chaplins for example) then we should provide religious guidance for all faiths that request it where possible. But don't the atheists need to respect us and give a little on their end?
Do they need to? No. Should they? Absolutely.

As for the Masonic symbols, there are two answers to that question.
1) Yes, they should be removed, because it's creepy and weird to have a "secret society" branded on our money.
2) No, they should not be removed, because although most Masonic lodges profess a belief in a Supreme Being, they accept all religions, as well as atheists and agnostics (in the Continental tradition) into their ranks. This, I'd argue, renders their symbols representative of a secular group, not a religious organization. Given that the activities of their members include attempts at further separation of church and state, and the elimination of religious schools in favor of secular schools, I'd say this is a reasonable stance.

So, heads, yes. Tails, no.

As far as a Grandfather clause...I suppose you could have one, but that's not going to solve the underlying problem. The problem is really whether these sorts of things belong in the sphere of government. Now, I think "In God We Trust" is broad enough to cover pretty much everyone but the Michael Newdows of the world, and the Newdows should really just shut up and take their medicine on that particular example.

But I do agree with his point that religion has no place in a public school. And I am a fan of putting as much distance between Church and State as possible.

And I had no idea about the use of the motto on coins. It's paper money that I'd been informed about, and you just taught me something. Thanks.
I just learned that myself as I felt sure that we'd been using it longer than that. I know the Pledge added the God part in the 50's so Newdow trying to get that removed didn't bother me so much.

Religion does have a place in public school in one sense. I'm in favor of classes teaching religion (not in Biology class though) and I'm in favor of student led religious groups provided that non-religious groups get equal access.
I'm opposed to teaching religion in school unless its a component of History class, and unless the religions covered extend beyond the Judeo-Christian.

Religion is taught in church. Teaching it in school in any capacity other than as "these people believed these things" seems as counter-intuitive to me as holding a physics class in Sunday school.

Students should be free to form their own groups, but again, in the spirit of debate I ask: Aren't there other, better places to have a religious "club?" Like church, for instance. If you want to be around others who share your faith, why not join the numerous clubs, organizations and activities available through them?

Making a Christian club open for all is nice in theory, but practically, what does it acheive? It's doubtful anyone who isn't Christian would join. But if they did, they'd fall into one of two groups:
1) Kids looking to give the group a hard time, and
2) Kids who are curious about Christianity, but not Christian.

If it's the second group, aren't there other ways and means available to explore that curiousity? Assuming group 2 as a reality, the club becomes a form of recruitment that is school funded.

Assuming group 1 as a reality means that the school would be unwillingly helping to instigate hostility and further conflict between kids.

What are your thoughts on that?
I meant a religion class that would fall into a humanities/history dept. Religions have played such a huge role in our history it's a shame for them to get so little play in studies.

Students could certainly do these things in church and likely the sorts of stuidents that would have a Bible club at school already do those sorts of things at church. But people who are serious about their relgion tend to do it more than just on Sunday. If my daughter got together with a group of friends at school, on school grounds and prayed for each other and for the scool and it wasn't required, I'd be tickled pink.

I think that you may have misunderstood what I meant by equal access. I don't mean that these religious groups should be open to all comers (though they should) but that non-religious student groups should also be able to form.

Curios students may go to a student group at school whereas a church may be less approachable. Kids who are going to pick fun or be hostile will likely do that anyway. There should be adults available in case this happens, but we can't shelter kids from those hostile to their beliefs and I wouldn't want the group to be closed.

As to the group being "school-funded" if they use classroom space that is currently unoccupied then the room was sitting empty anyway. They aren't providing food or any services other than a location and if you can as easily have a Muslim group, a Jewish group, a Christian group, or a non-theistic group use the space then you aren't establishing a religion (equal access to all).
You're right, I misunderstood you. I understand what you're saying but let me play el advocato de diablo for a few more minutes here.

People who are serious about Religion do practice on days other than Sunday, I agree. But the kinds of activities offered by even the smallest churches extend throughout the week. My home church has no more than sixty to eighty people each week in the pews, but it offers a mammoth array of church related activities.

I don't see a problem with letting kids use empty class rooms for whatever they want, religious or not, as long as its safe, responsible, and supervised.

But here are some thoughts to bandy about:
Posit: A religious club is a "Belief club." It's not the same as a sports program, or a drama society.Why? Because while drama and sports may teach you certain lessons, they tend not to be MORAL lessons. Religious clubs are all about the specific morality of that religion. How would schools allow a Christian club, open to all, if gay christians joined? Is it alright for them to start interfering in the club to stop any negativity on either end? And how does it do so without contradicting the tenets of one or both of the groups' faith?

2)I am in no way comparing the two, but I am inclined to be curious about whether you'd allow a white-power group to form a student club. Espousing racial superiority is not against the law, and is, a white-power adherent might argue, simply an expression of personal moral and social philosophy.

Would you allow a communist group to form?

What about a student group for Satanism? True Satanists aren't baby-killing evil people; they're believers in the improvement of self and the absence of divinity, except their own. As such, religious types find them rephrehensible. Do they get a club?

If they do, how do you, the school, keep these diverse groups from succumbing to the quick blood of youth? How do you manage to keep your involvement at a minimum while making sure that these groups don't literally or figuratively kill one another?

Isn't it just more practical for the school to say "Do what you like, but not on our property?" Otherwise, you've (the collective you, not you personally) forced them into a position of constant monitoring, decision making, and possible monetary liability.
Those are complicated questions and I'll admit not to having the answers. I will say that in schools that allow such groups I am unaware of any such problems. That of course does not mean that they don't and I'm sure it's a headache for administrators. A reason I'm certain why many of them can't start.

I could see not allowing a WP club on a basis that it would discriminate. Of course you could say that about a Christian club, but hopefully they wouldn't and if they did then I guess you could shut them down. I see no particular problem with a Communist Club or a Satanist Club, though I doubt such clubs would form or be very large.

In college (I went to a state funded college) we had all manner of clubs that gathered on school property. Some where political, others social, and still others religious. High School kids are about to enter that world and need to be prepared for it. Having some of these same types of clubs might help kids discover something about what they believe. Given the nature of adolescence and of some of these clubs, they would need to be supervised and if they became problematic then they would be shut down.

This "Do what you like, but not on our property?" is certainly more practical and if schools aren't willing to deal with the complications then they need to make sure that no groups have access and that seems a bit streile.
I think we've debated ourselves near-dry. At issue for me is whether its worth the risk.

As far as college is concerned, state school or no, I'm assuming you paid for admission. That's a crucial difference for me. If you've paid your way then you have more of a say (I've become Dr. Seuss). Public High Schools are different.

When our government is fully sponsoring something, I think it changes the equation somewhat.

This is not to say that I disagree with you, necessarily. I don't see anything wrong with a student run religious group, but I do think that the sort of questions I've posed are relevant, and perhaps illustrate the difficulties with the problem.
Good stuff. I'd love to hear Nizzle's two bits worth.
Oh and the tuition I paid was nominal.
He's MIA today.

He always turns up though. He's a magical jewish leprechaun that way.

Speak, Leprechaun!
So he's magically delicious AND kosher? Cool.
I have no idea if he's magically delicious. You'd have to ask his fiancee.
The Holy Spirit came through with a great message on this issue of "in God we trust" in The Christian Prophet blog yesterday.
The Holy Spirit came through with a great message on this issue of "in God we trust" in The Christian Prophet blog yesterday.
"I have no idea if he's magically delicious. You'd have to ask his fiancee."

"The Holy Spirit came through with a great message on this issue of "in God we trust" in The Christian Prophet blog yesterday. "

Spammers have a special place in Hell.
That's ok. I spammed his site. (The Christian Prophet) He is channeling the Spirit of GOP. One letter makes a huge difference doesn't it? I mean, look at the Bible Code...
I didn't want to give him the page view.
Oh guys, sorry I've been MIA. In Boston for depositions. Boring.

In any case, I have much to say, but am trying to catch up on stuff here.

Meanwhile, I should give you something to chew on while I get back (and I am magically delicions and kosher [my fiancee' has allowed me to sign off on that fact]):

In law school, I took a class called "Church and State," which was by far the most interesting class there. In any case, I wrote my final in Platonic dialogue (I think I told you that, Codemorse) regarding the principles that support our contemporary notions of Church and State. If I can find a copy, I will bring it in to work with me tomorrow and quote from it, just for fun.

Although there was something in there about a fourth dimension of logic, based on one fundamental principle, that our human understanding of a higher being must necessarily be inherently limited.
If I'm not mistaken, fourth dimensional logic played a part in our discussions last Saturday, mon Nizzle. The sheer act of trying to understand a higher intelligence is flawed, because we assume that our logic, worldview, principles, thought-patterns, etc, etc...is similar to that of the higher power, when by definition as "Higher Power," it must necessarily operate on different/higher planes.
What a great site » »
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