Christian and Atheist Politicians Debate ‘In God We Trust’ Sign in Missouri

Christianist Dee Wampler has been on a quest to have the phrase “In God We Trust” branded in every city in the state of Missouri. He believes this shouldn’t be a big deal since it’s our national motto.

Wampler doesn’t care how much these cities would have to pay to create/put up the signs or to defend themselves in a lawsuit. He just wants his religion endorsed (and his name credited with doing that). He also wants to make sure the “hyphenated-americans” understand the (false) notion that we’re a Christian nation.

A number of cities have already approved the motion.

When the motion came up in the city of Adrian on Monday, though, Alderman (and atheist) Danny Ferguson was there to defend separation of church and state. (He provided me with a transcript of the city council meeting.)

Mayor Larry Ritter: This next little deal is something that’s a little bit odd. The city of Adrian has been asked to post a sign that says “In God we trust” and we also have to pass an ordinance if we want to do this. A resolution. It goes along with, I think, a lawsuit that’s been settled in the state of Missouri and they’re trying to get all the cities that will to be proud to say that “In God we do trust.” So, it’s before this council if you want to do this or not.

Alderman Bob Hess: I make a motion that we do it.

Alderman Sue Miller: I second it.

Ritter: There ought to be some discussion first.

Hess: It’s the national motto. What do we need to discuss?

Ritter: There ought to be some discussion, I think, first.

Alderman Danny Ferguson: I’m going to be voting against this.

Ferguson was outnumbered, but that didn’t stop him from rationally discussing the problems with this sign.

The most telling part of the conversation was the exchange between Hess (who supports the sign) and Ferguson (who is against it):

Hess: If you don’t believe in God, I mean if there something wrong with God, and you don’t think there’s a God, this shouldn’t bother you.

Ferguson: OK, would you be all right if we put up “Allahu Akbar,” Arabic for “God is great”?

Hess: No, that’s not God.

Ferguson: “Allah” is Arabic for “God.”

Hess: No, it’s not the right God.

Ferguson: OK, so now we’re down to which God it is.

I love that 🙂

And Ferguson kept going:

Ferguson:… I’ve got a little statement to read and enter in the minutes.

Ferguson: Can we enter it into the record which God this will be?

Ritter: I don’t want to get into this, Danny.

Warner: It’s just a motto.

Lemon: I guess it really doesn’t matter if God is whatever God you choose then you trust in him or not.

Ferguson: So, you don’t want to say which God?

Lemon: Why would it matter?

Ferguson: Could we use the phrase “Allahu Akbar”? Would you be comfortable with that, Bob?

Hess: Would you like that?

Ferguson: No, I wouldn’t like that either.

After Ferguson read a fantastic statement explaining why church and state should be kept separate, it was time to vote:

Hess: I make a motion that we approve this, including “in God we trust” somewhere in the City Hall.

Miller: I second it.

Ritter: All in favor?

Miller: Aye.

Hess: Aye.

Corum: Aye.

Ritter: Opposed?

Ferguson: Aye.

The motion passed 3-1. Adrian’s about to get an IGWT sign in City Hall. Wampler gets another victory to his credit. Ferguson put up a good fight, but came away defeated.

If you live in Adrian, you need to vote out Sue Miller, Bob Hess, and Richard Corum as soon as you can. Maybe the city needs a lawsuit to get the citizens in action…

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  • Rich Wilson

    Maybe the city needs a lawsuit to get the citizens in action

    I’m not sure I see the point of a losing lawsuit. Sure, there’s “the good fight”, but the problem isn’t our local city council putting up a sign with the nation’s motto on it. The problem is the nation’s motto.

  • Blacksheep

    If you live in Adrian, you need to vote out Sue Miller, Bob Hess, and Richard Corum as soon as you can.

    Wouldn’t it be good to know what their track records are and if they are good aldermen before voting them out? For all we know, Ferguson might be a terrible public servant – but since he’s an atheist that’s not the point?

    Voting people out because of their faith is wrong.

  • VorlonGuyverOss

    By getting this on record, I think, Ferguson just killed the motto because it shows the people who are trying to get in, have it in mind, a specific god.

    The religionist knows that if the “In God We Trust” can be proven that the persons who are trying to get this in then they will fail, this is why the “don’t want to get into this right now”.

  • Brice Gilbert

    Hess tells him to basically look up answers in genesis style crap.

    They are told the exact phrasing of the 1st amendment in regards to religion and when he brings up the phrase “separation of church and state” they conclude since it’s not actually phrased that way in the constitution it doesn’t apply. Even though of course the meaning is the same, but the words are different (though written by the same guy 🙂

  • blacksheep, it wouldn’t be voting them out “because of” their faith. it would be voting them out for forcing ONE faith on everyone in their community, regardless of their own personal beliefs that’s what they just did. and made citizens PAY for that decision; those signs won’t come free.

    i just can’t get over how so many pols of every faith and stripe think there’s *nothing* better for them to focus on, than this sort of crap. hello: unemployment, health care, schools, crumbling roads, 2.5-6 wars depending on how you judge the term… yet again and again, WE pay our taxdollars to these moron who think they were elected to debate “what god is real/right.” um, no, asswipe. when i want to hear someone on that topic, i go to a temple/church/mosque. and it’s very sad that the fundie is so ignorant of Islam he doesn’t recognize that it explicitly says “Allah” is the “same god” as the english term “god.” americans are so fucking ignorant of the rest of the world. skim the wiki entry on the Koran, your doofus. good old Mo was probably way more “real” and historical than your god/ling Jeebus. and both get many more potentially real being points than Allah/God/YWHW/FSM/Ganesh/Celestial Beings in Ancestral Heaven.

    i had this conversation/argument with my BIL once. he’s got degrees from MIT and UMich Biz Skool and a very high IQ, but he lurvs him some Jeebus. he was totally OK with the 10 commandments on state property, but the Vedas? oh, no. and he totally would not admit to the hypocrisy of that. that’s what belief does to the otherwise functioning human mind, and why i oppose and despise it, always.

  • Blacksheep

    Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…

    That’s all it says on the matter. Sure, it has been interpreted many ways. But these are the actual words in the constitution.

    I’m one who feels that groups ought to fight against whatever they disagree with – even if it’s in the constitution. That’s how people got the vote, that’s where civil rights came from.

    But if that’s true, it works both ways…

  • Blacksheep

    blacksheep, it wouldn’t be voting them out “because of” their faith. it would be voting them out for forcing ONE faith on everyone in their community, regardless of their own personal beliefs that’s what they just did. and made citizens PAY for that decision; those signs won’t come free

    What I mean is that they have a right to fight for what they believe is right for themselves and their constituents. Everyone does. They should not be fired for that. And there is a device in place to settle disputes: voting, and that’s what they did.

    The sign does not promote ONE faith – it promotes most faiths. “God” is pretty universal. Besides, it’s our official national motto.

    I don’t feel that the little amount that the sign costs is a big issue. I’m sure that the ACLU doesn’t consider costs when it sues towns, schools, and the government (who then hire lawyers) to remove plaques, signs, nativity scenes, or whatever else ruffles their feathers. They have a right to do so.

  • Gordon

    The quoted statements from the meeting make it clear they are not interested in “most faiths”, they make it explicit they do not even include all the Abrahamic versions of god.

    They mean the christian god…

  • fiddler

    Blacksheep says: “The sign does not promote ONE faith – it promotes most faiths. “God” is pretty universal. Besides, it’s our official national motto.”

    The reality is:
    Hess: No, it’s not the right God.

    Ferguson: OK, so now we’re down to which God it is.

  • Some faiths believe in a goddess. Some believe in both a god and a goddess. Others contain numerous deities or spirits of many different titles and roles. Some faiths do not have a deity at all while others see the divine as being nature itself.

    “God” is by no means universal. However, the average US citizen’s understanding of religion and spirituality is so narrowly centered upon Christianity that they are clueless as to how their notion of “god” excludes other belief systems.

    So, yes, “in god we trust” favors Christianity over other religions and that means that the US government’s official motto favors one religion over others. If your religion happens to be Abrahamic, then your notion of spirit/divinity is sort of represented, thanks to Judaism,Islam, and Christianity having shared historical origins. As for everyone else, fuck em’. They’re in the minority anyway, right? What does it matter if the government plays favorites?

  • LawnBoy

    I live in Webster Groves, Missouri, so I emailed the City Manager and City Clerk today:

    I’m am a Webster Groves resident, and I recently learned that a Springfield, MO lawyer is trying to get every town in Missouri to post “In God We Trust” in its City Hall.

    Has Webster Groves received this request? Is Webster Groves considering honoring it?

    If so, I would like to voice my strong opposition on constitutional grounds. The First Amendment is clear that the government should not endorse religion. And while Wampler is correct that “In God We Trust” is the national motto, I believe that such endorsement of religion was a mistake that the city of Webster Groves should not emulate.

    Additionally, I know that Webster Groves has residents of many different faiths, including many who do not believe in the existence of God. I do not not believe it is appropriate for the city to endorse a particular set of beliefs in the name of a community which does not unanimously share it.

    Please let me know if this matter will come up for public discussion so that I can make sure my voice is heard.

    Thank you,

    Here’s the response from the City Manager:

    Neither the City Clerk nor I nor anyone we know of in City Hall has received such a request.

  • Carl

    This is really irritating. The poster above had it right, though: the issue is changing the national motto. That’s not going to happen, though, because the Supreme Court will have to take the case and they will simply side-step it like they do all of these types of cases.

  • Demonhype

    It doesn’t matter if they’re “willing to fight” for what the “believe” is “best” for themselves and their constituents if what they “believe” is “best” is to make everyone pay to put up signs that decree that lack of god-belief excludes a citizen from the “we” category and relegates those godless citizens to the “them” category. It is wrong, it goes against everything our country purportedly stands for, and they should be voted out of office for it. Seriously, would they have the same defense if they were promoting overtly racist policies, because they “believe” it’s what’s “best” for their state or city? Someone’s “belief” that something is “best” is not the same as it being the best or being defensible in any way, nor is it the same as it being constitutional.

    And “it’s our national motto” is no excuse. Our national motto was made “in god we trust” only in the 1950’s, and that for the explicit purpose of excluding non-believers and emphasizing that atheists are not really citizens but just barely tolerated….and only for the time being. It is a vile and bigoted relic of the Cold War that should be removed in favor of “E Pluribus Unum” which is what our Founding Fathers actually intended for this country. Tradition is no excuse either–evil traditions need to be abolished. Slavery was also a tradition, but that doesn’t mean it should be preserved and/or honored for eternity.

    Finally, it appears blacksheep is not reading for comprehension, only for confirmation bias. What part of “no, that’s not the right god” does he not understand? The pro-christians-are-1st-class-citizens councilmen are documented to have said that this reference to god only applies to christians, and that any suggestion that it refers to any other god from any other religion is “not the right god”. Is this so hard to understand, or do you just filter out things that challenge your assumptions? All this “in god we trust” and “under god” bullshit is a way to shove christian beliefs down the throats of non-christians and atheists, and the second there is even a slight suggestion that “god” means anything but Jesus-god there is a wail from the christians that no, this is a christian nation and other religions need not apply. So much for the “oh it just means anyone’s god!”–nothing more than a lie to cover up their true theocratic intent. Vile people.

    Thanks to Ferguson for at least making a stand–that’s half the battle. If no one ever makes a stand, evil things like this can’t change. Small-minded evil bigots like those in that council rely on those with an actual understanding of ethics and constitutional rights to remain silent, whether through apathy, defeatism, or fear. Speaking up can only have a positive effect.

    These fuckers are losing the battle. The numbers of non-religious are growing, people are starting to call the religious contingent on their bullshit and their evil and their abject uselessness, and I think they’re making these kinds of efforts to cement their power as many ways as possible in a last-ditch attempt to keep their claws on the ill-gotten undeserved power and respect they’ve “traditionally” had. They will lose in the end, however.

  • RTH

    I do think it’s nice that the very next item on the agenda was the mayor’s motion to make Ferguson the new mayor pro-tem and that that motion was approved unanimously.

  • Kate

    Ugh. Things like this make me glad I’m leaving Missouri in September. I’m going to fight it if it comes up in my city, but I simply shouldn’t have to. Hopefully Pennsylvania will be better about this sort of thing…

  • OverlapingMagisteria

    Suing to have the signs removed would most likely fail since IGWT is our national motto, regrettably. I can’t see any judge seeing displaying our national motto as a bad thing.
    But it may bring to light just how divisive our motto actually is. So it probably wouldn’t be a legal victory, but progress in awareness. Let’s bring back E Pluribis Unum (Or an english translation of it, since few people know what it means.)

  • I’m surprised that no one has mentioned one of the funniest lines. A city employee recommended a young earth creationist article to me, thinking it would convince me that god is real.

  • Matt H

    It’s so stupid that as large of a portion of the population we make up, we are still barely represented in government. What’s with the lone atheist government representatives in a field of fanatical religious colleagues.

    If you are going to say crap like “don’t vote based on religion” then you have no right to complain when stupid things like this occur. If you vote the religious nuts in, expect stuff like this. 🙂

  • JB

    The national motto is incomplete. It -should- read:
    In God we trust–all others pay cash.

  • Kristi

    Wouldn’t it be good to know what their track records are and if they are good aldermen before voting them out? For all we know, Ferguson might be a terrible public servant – but since he’s an atheist that’s not the point?

    Voting people out because of their faith is wrong.

    While this I agree with to a point.. anyone who attempts to push faith based decisions into government has no place being in office to begin with. ALL politicians know about separation of church and state and this is a clear violation of it. Yes I know it is the “motto”.. however, they blatantly state they think any other god is the “wrong” god, therefore they are endorsing a specific faith into the motto, which is a violation.

  • zachofalltrades

    The only way this sort of national motto could be made constitutional is if it were changed to something like “In One Or More Supernatural Entities Which May Posess Powers Up To And Including Omnipotency We May Or May Not Trust“. Might not be able to fit all that on the back of a five, but I kind of like the sound of it. 😉

    Anything more specific than that vague bullshittery violates the establishment clause. I can’t for the life of me understand why anyone would think it doesn’t – it just doesn’t get any more clear cut than that.

  • ACN

    I’m late to the party here, but the transcript was UNREAL.

    The quote from Miller:

    Alright guys, at this point we’re not discussing whether it’s religion or not, we’re discussing whether we want to put this up in our chamber or not. It’s not whether you believe in God or not. It’s just very simple.

    followed by:

    The question is do we want to put it up in our chamber? We can sit here and debate all night long whether you believe in God, I believe in God, he believes in it. It doesn’t have anything to do with it. The question is do we want to put our national motto up. That’s all it is.

    I thought was especially telling. She KNOWS exactly what is going on here, but is deliberately shying away from the actual issue.

    But the part that took the cake was this:

    Hess: Most of this country believes in God. We’ve got 15% of the country telling you you can’t have God anywhere.

    Ferguson: You can have God any number of places.

    Hess: No you can’t, you can’t put it anywhere in government.

    Ferguson: In government. That’s right.

    Hess: And the whole damn government that we’ve got was founded by religious people. It was. If you just read the Federalist Papers and look at it.

    Ferguson: Our government is not based on the Federalist Papers or the Declaration of Independence.

    Hess: Oh yes it is.

    Ferguson: No, I’m sorry, it’s not. Our government is based on the Constitution.

    Williams: One of the last words of the Constitution says, “So help me God.”

    Ferguson: No, I’m sorry Lori, but you’re dead wrong on that. The Constitution does not contain the word “God,” “Jesus,” “Christianity” or “church.” It contains the word “religion” once in article VI and once in the First Amendment and they’re both saying things the government should not get involved with. It says there should be no religious test for office and it says the government shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise.

    Hess wants more god in government(!?!?!?!). Williams is unaccountably unfamiliar with a document she claims to be quoting from. This was a joke.

  • Kevin

    SCOTUS has already decreed that IGWT is so diluted as to be secular, which is psychotic. You’d have to be a lawyer or a politician to reason yourself into such a conclusion. As a Missouri native and citizen I’m not happy or content to let this go through without letting my representatives know my feelings. Many appear to have forgotten that in a representative democracy our politicians are supposed to represent all of us, not just themselves. “E Pluribus Unum” is the only motto that truly unites us as a country. All others divide.

  • ScottDogg

    Hess: No, that’s not God.

    Ferguson: “Allah” is Arabic for “God.”
    Hess: No, it’s not the right God.

    Ferguson: OK, so now we’re down to which God it is.

    I know a god that we can all agree is fit for worship:

    The Party God!!!

  • Larry Meredith

    is it possible that these signs are being put up intentionally to provoke a lawsuit in hopes that it will go to supreme court and rule America as a Christian nation? Somewhat like how some states are restricting/outlawing abortion rights clearly against the constitution in an attempt to provoke a lawsuit leading to Roe V. Wade being overturned.

  • Women make up 51% of the populace and only 12 – 15% of government.  It can take a LONG time to make inroads.