LA Times Gets It Wrong Even When They Get It Right

The Los Angeles Times managed to get it both right and wrong with yesterday’s editorial.

They were commenting on the Capitol Visitor Center and the potential engraving of “In God We Trust” inside of it. FFRF is suing to stop that from happening.

So where does the editorial team stand on this?

This is another case that calls for reasonableness rather than stridency. Although there is an understandable rationale for keeping phrases like “In God We Trust” in places where they’ve traditionally appeared — on, say, pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters — it hardly seems necessary to retrofit a government building at substantial cost merely to add words that might offend some people. At the same time, it’s worth noting that the defenders of secularism sometimes seem to make an inordinate fuss over minor issues (such as this one) when there are more significant battles to be fought.

*sigh*

No, no, no. Bad editorial board. Bad.

They are correct that “In God We Trust” has been on coins for a long while — since after the Civil War — but that’s no reason to keep them there now. What exactly is the “understandable rationale” for keeping the phrase on our currency? I don’t know, and they don’t say.

And are defenders of secularism making too big deal about this?

No doubt there are more important church/state violations. But we should not ignore this.

We didn’t (couldn’t) make a fuss when IGWT was slapped onto our money, made our national motto, and “under God” was inserted into the pledge.

And now, those very things are used against us when we protest church/state violations.

If the Capitol Visitor Center is allowed to engrave IGWT on the inside, you can bet the Religious Right will use that in the future as evidence that this is a Christian nation. They’ll use it to justify further insertions of God into government-run projects.

We may lose this battle, but we shouldn’t stop complaining and we need to keep the pressure up on this.

We need to let the government know this is unacceptable.

This isn’t about getting offended. Atheists are used to that. This is about a principle — keeping religion out of taxpayer-subsidized projects is good for everyone.

What an embarrassing, disappointing editorial. And this, despite the fact they come out on our side!

Paul Fidalgo reminds us that this is the same LA Times that published Charlotte Allen‘s (truly offensive) anti-atheist piece a couple months ago.

He adds:

I don’t think religious invocations should be removed from government buildings because they hurt my feelings. Hurt feelings is the rationale used by religionists when they oppose private atheistic displays. I want to keep these things separate because government support or endorsement of any kind of superstition, theology, mythology, supernatural revelation, dogma is a bad thing. It fosters sectarianism, it is exclusionary to all those who don’t subscribe to that belief or that form of theism (certainly our Hindu friends, for example, would probably like to know which god it is we are claiming to trust), it celebrates faith over factual understanding, it dilutes a commitment to science and reality, and casts as unAmerican those who do not trust in their imaginary superbeing. There is no constitutional amendment against being offended, nor should there be.

Very well put. Don’t you think?

  • http://www.gopetition.com/online/18938.html Michael

    Paul Fidalgo’s comments were very clear and to the point. Thanks for posting them…I’ll work on committing them to memory!

  • http://denkeensechtna.blogspot.com/ Deen

    At the same time, it’s worth noting that the defenders of secularism sometimes seem to make an inordinate fuss over minor issues (such as this one) when there are more significant battles to be fought.

    Of course, it’s not like people can’t fight multiple battles at the same time.

  • http://logofveritas.blogspot.com Veritas

    I read this, and it makes sense. But I was up all night. So…my brain is a little fuzzy right now. But Mr. Fidalgo hit the bloody nail on the head. Sure of that.

  • Ron in Houston

    The reason I think this is one of those “line in the sand” type cases is Congress intentionally attempting to insert religion into the visitor center. It was already designed without “In God We Trust” and Congress is doing this to pander to religious people.

  • http://logofveritas.blogspot.com Veritas

    I think Hemant makes an interesting point that every single thing the religious folk get engraved is one more phrase they throw in the face of atheists to try and prove that the USA is a theocracy.

  • justanotherjones

    it hardly seems necessary to retrofit a government building at substantial cost merely to add words that might offend some people. At the same time, it’s worth noting that the defenders of secularism sometimes seem to make an inordinate fuss over minor issues (such as this one) when there are more significant battles to be fought.

    Am I missing something? They are against adding the words, and they are also against the argument against adding the words? Or are they just suggesting that if FFRF would just ask nice they’ll just drop the whole idea?

    I agree with Mr. Fidalgo.

  • http://www.hanlonsrazor.org Hanlon

    Well remember, sympathizing with atheists is a big no-no for the major media. If they’re stuck and HAVE to acknowledge that an atheist stance is the right one, they’ll throw in so many caveats it undermines the original point.

  • http://www.myspace.com/rox1smf Rox1SMF

    If I wanted to give my money to a religious group, there are thousands willing to take my money. Funding one with my taxes is simply unacceptable, period.

    These “insignificant” issues are worth fighting for if you’re an American, no matter what your religious views.

  • ayer

    The rationale is that statements such as this do not represent Christianity or any other particular sectarian religion, but instead represent “ceremonial deism”, defined as “nominally religious statements and practices deemed to be merely ritual and non-religious through long customary usage” (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ceremonial_deism). Indeed, many evangelical Christians regard ceremonial deism as doing more harm than good to Christianity, since the state is endorsing a watered-down version of religion drained of all specific content (see, e.g., http://tinyurl.com/ljntds).

  • Anonymous

    No doubt there are more important church/state violations.

    Maybe I’m reading it wrong, but my impression was that the editors were arguing that there are more important political issues than church/state violations. That sounds about right to me.

  • Dan W

    What with this and the previous Charlotte Allen piece, I gotta say I’m really not a fan of the LA Times. They don’t seem to care to actually bother to figure out why so many atheists are against things like having “In God We Trust” on the Capitol Visitor Center. However, Mr. Fidalgo hit it right on the head. And I agree with what Deen said above. While these sorts of things may seem like minor issues, it’s not like we can’t fight multiple battles at once.

  • John L

    I think our only hope in this battle is to have atheism be more popular than religion. America is about popular politics and if a big enough group of people want something then they get it unless it’s so obviously against the constitution and even then. Take prop 8 in my state of California for instance. Rights were taken away from a few hundred thousand people because a few million people thought that they shouldn’t have them.

  • http://www.examiner.com/x-4275-DC-Secularism-Examiner Paul Fidalgo

    Thanks, folks. :)


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X