Mobile Says 'No' to Pagans, Atheists Re 'Phrase' on Plaque Aug 8, 2014 1:53:06 GMT -5
Post by Joanna on Aug 8, 2014 1:53:06 GMT -5
Mobile County Commission won't hear on displays for atheists, Pagans, keeps 'In God We Trust'
MOBILE, Ala. – Religion was at the center of Thursday's bi-weekly planning meeting of the Mobile County Commission, which stretched from its usual 20-30 minutes to two hours of public testimony for and against a Christian display in Government Plaza. The approved public display proclaims the national motto "In God We Trust" either on a seal or plaque. As a result, local atheists, Universalists, Pagans and others requested they be afforded the same opportunity to display a phrase related to their beliefs.
Almost two-dozen people spoke regarding the issue, including ex-congressional candidate Dean Young, local Tea Party leader Pete Reihm and Mobile Atheist Community co-founder Dustin Chalker.
MAC member Amanda Scott took the podium first reiterating the point she made at the June 19 meeting in which the display was approved. 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, he respected the atheist faith and agreed they should have equal credence. "If you give them [Christians] three words," Rettig said, "give them [atheists] three words," he said.
Several people stepped up afterward to delve farther into the issue.
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. "Atheists comprise about 10 percent of the citizens of the county, a group larger than every non-Christian demographic combined," he said. "We have an equal interest in representation and treatment by this governing body."
Chalker immediately struck down the argument that the United States is a Christian nation. "Given that our 100 percent Godless constitution and treaties are the supreme law of the land, those who claim we are a Christian nation might have some difficulty explaining our very first treaty, the law of the land, which explicitly declares in its first sentence, the government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion." Chalker added that "in reason we trust" is a sound atheist representation based upon the words of John Adams, the second president of the United States. "It will never be pretended that any person employed in that service had interviews with gods, or were in any degree under the influence of Heaven ... it will forever be acknowledged that these governments were contrived merely by the use of reason and the senses," Chalker quoted Adams. "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.
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. "I was looking at my money," Patrick said, "and it says In God We Trust." He said he supports the Christian display and that other faiths should be able to have their own. "Let's do it," he said.
The former congressional candidate spoke next, first thanking the commission for the chance to speak. "This country was founded by the gospel of Jesus Christ," said 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.
The next speaker pulled no punches, likening the atheists to children. "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.
Youth pastor Daniel McGuire said that the entire issue could be likened to tattoos. He said 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?" He said trust in God was the only sound trust. "I put trust in myself and it doesn't result well," said McGuire. "I ended up being arrested four times for trusting myself."
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."
Lisa Ingram represented Pagans and said she was raised Baptist. "Wiccans are not fringe groups, not heathens, we simply believe in a Goddess as well as a God," she said. She pointed out that Wicca is recognized by the United States Military as a religion. "If you don't evolve, you don't expand your mind," she said. "It we didn't, there would be no civil rights, no gay rights," she said. Ingram said she had experienced personal attacks over her beliefs. "I don't have a problem with them," she said of the religious. "They have a problem with me."
Several speakers said the motto is "patriotic" and not religious. The Star-Spangled Banner was mentioned several times as another historical example in addition to currency in which "In God We Trust" is displayed.
Riehm spoke last, claiming the issue was a patriotic topic and not a religious one. "Thank God for giving us that right," he said of discussing the display at all. “Apparently you can even cast a spell if you want to," he said of Pagans.
Commission President Connie Hudson made a ruling at the end of the two hours of discussion. "Whether you like it or don't, it's the national motto," she said. She said those who do not agree with it should take it to the federal legislature. "If any other motto is added, that would give credence," said Hudson. "Until then, the commission will not deal with any other plaques."
Commissioner Merceria Ludgood said that she wanted to vote as a body on the petition presented by MAC. "I don't think anything should be here, any religious expression," she said.
Commissioner Jerry Carl said his district led him to vote for it. "You can't separate a person from their religion," he said. "I ran my campaign on Christian fundamentals and I will stay that way until y'all run me out," he said.
Ludgood told Alabama Media Group her dissent does not reflect her faith. "I am a devout Christian, that's who I am, she said. "This issue is divisive." Ludgood said she would rather government stay out of it. "It's just a slogan," she said. She said what frustrated her was hearing people cite history, but not tell the whole story. In her original dissent at the June 19 vote, Ludgood was the only opposing commissioner.
As it stands, there will be no formal vote on this issue.
Source: Cassie Fambro, Alabama, August 7, 2014.