In Missouri, an ‘In God We Trust’ Sign Goes Up and an Atheist Runs for City Council

A year ago, the town of Adrian, Missouri voted to put up an “In God We Trust” sign in their town hall. At the time, Alderman Danny Ferguson did everything he could to put a stop to that, even asking the others *which* god they were referring to. In fact, his attempt to stop the sign from going up is so fantastic, you should go back and read it again.

Now, there are updates to the story.

First, the sign went up. And it (seriously) looks like this:

George Washington tebowed. Who knew.

Danny writes:

Though they had promised it would be a simple, cheap 8.5 x 11 sheet of paper, the city attorney paid for a framed painting of George Washington praying with the slogan on it…

Meanwhile, Danny was up for reelection and he had a challenger (because who wants a dirty rotten atheist representing them?!)…

I had one constituent tell me that she probably couldn’t vote for me because she “wants to keep God in” the local government. She said she likes me and I’m still one of her favorite students (she was my 2nd grade teacher). She said she didn’t understand why I would leave the faith. I offered to send her a link to things I’ve written and she said she didn’t really want to know…

There’s good news, though!

When the vote was counted, I won 85-70 (yes, it’s a small town). Last night we had the swearing in. As before, I said “on my honor” at the end of the oath instead of “so help me god.” As we sat down to resume the meeting, I heard our retired chief of police (and current part-time officer) grumbling in the back saying that the constitution says you have to say “so help me god.”

I could just overhear him, so I told him, “Don’t worry, it will hold up in court.”

Later in the meeting I was elected mayor pro tem again. After the meeting I spoke with him and he asked if something bad happened to me to make me lose my faith. I explained that I did a lot of reading and saw that there wasn’t convincing evidence for Christianity. He said something like, “Well, you’re really smart, but sometimes we can be too smart.” He also told me he never goes to church, so there’s that.

Right. Can’t have “too smart” people running the town. That would lead to chaos…

Anyway, congrats to Danny on his reelection and his temporary position! It’s nice to see atheists having some political success, at least locally. That sign won’t be coming down with the current makeup of the city council, but we know there’s at least one sensible person voting for separation of church and state.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • Timeycook

    what a

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/John-A-Anderson/100000016895400 John A. Anderson

      I think Timeycook’s last brain cell just expired.

      • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

        I’d send you a bill for a new keyboard, but it was worth it.

  • Timeycook

    what a shame that people would vote in a pretend fake atheist

    • http://sucktackular.com sucktackular

      …wut?

    • Patrick

      Qu’est-ce que fuck?

    • Coyotenose

       So,  trolling or ignorant?

      • HA2

         Definitely trolling. Ignore them.

    • RTH

      Wouldn’t a “pretend fake atheist” actually be an atheist?

  • http://www.holytape.etsy.com Holytape

    [sarcasm] At least, it’s a work of art with cultural significance. And some wanna-be-JAck-Chick-historical revisionist crap. [/sarcasm]
    FSM

  • http://dogmabytes.com/ C Peterson

    Fear of “too smart” people runs deep in American society. Being intelligent and well educated can really hinder a candidate’s electability. 

    • Zeggman

       When you consider the number of people who use their smarts to loot the public treasury, some of that caution is probably justified.

      • http://dogmabytes.com/ C Peterson

        No it isn’t. A smart person is no more likely to be unethical than a dumb one. If the public treasury is robbed by smart people, that’s only because they’re smart. Dumb people never get themselves into a position to do that! Unethical smart people rob the public, unethical dumb ones rob liquor stores. That fact shouldn’t be used to judge the ethics of smart or dumb people in general, or anybody in between.

        Who we should seek for our leaders are the smart AND the ethical- and there’s no reason we shouldn’t be able to detect both qualities with reasonable certitude.

        • Zeggman

           Whether smart people are more likely to be unethical or not, they’re more likely to be able to conceal their dishonesty if they’re unethical. That’s what justifies the caution.

          When you perfect your system for determining who’s ethical “with reasonable certitude” you should share it.

          • http://dogmabytes.com/ C Peterson

            One of the things that generally comes with good critical thinking skills is a fair BS detector. Of course, as fewer people are able to think clearly, that just opens up the door to con artists running for office. However, looking at much of the current crop, “smart” isn’t a requirement at all.

            What’s better- smart and unethical or dumb and unethical? Tough call!

  • Troy Truchon

    First ordinance, no telling people whats in the constitution until you’ve actually read the thing. The same should go for the bible. 

  • Timeycook

    Nobody is a true atheist

    • http://sucktackular.com sucktackular

      Agnostic atheist here. I completely agree.

    • Coyotenose

       Are you claiming that nobody ACTUALLY doesn’t believe in God? Because that claim was shredded long before you were born.

      • Timeycook

        Claim isn’t shredded, never will be.  Nobody truly disbelieves in God.   but thx 4 your response

        • http://twitter.com/InMyUnbelief TCC

          Nice unfalsifiable claim and “no true Scotsman” fallacy. Got any more? I’m still a few spaces away from filling up my “religious idiot” bingo card.

        • OverlappingMagisteria

          I’m curious as to why you think you can read my mind and tell me what I truly believe or disbelieve.

          • http://www.facebook.com/maik.both Maik Both

            Once you have pushed your mind to believe in something for which there is no evidence, believing you can read minds is an easy next step. ;^)

        • guest

          By the same logic, nobody truly believes in a god, either.

        • chicago dyke, venomous lesbian

          you obviously don’t know me. or my sister. or my best friend. or my grandmother. or my grad school advisor. or…

          just because you need to believe in a sky fairy doesn’t mean everyone else does. learn to accept this. 

        • Anonymous

          Nobody truly disbelieves in Zeus? Mithras? Inanna? Osiris? Yahweh? Freya? Brigit? Allah? Diana? Thor? Christ? Krishna? I believe them all to be mythical creations of human beings.

        • http://www.facebook.com/people/John-A-Anderson/100000016895400 John A. Anderson

          I assure you that I am someone and that I have never believed in god. BTW, when you were an infant, you were somebody and you didn’t believe in god. Everyone, without exception, was an atheist for at least a couple of years.

    • http://yetanotheratheist.com/ TerranRich

      I’m sure you mean “gnostic atheist”. Even still, your claim is unsupported by any evidence: prove that there is not one single person on Earth who is not a gnostic atheist.

  • Timeycook

    Thanks for your replies.  g2g now.  have a great day

    • http://gloomcookie613.tumblr.com GloomCookie613

       You have a great day, too, Timeycook.  Fun suggestion if you have some free time on your hands: Read a book.

  • Anonymous

    “…the constitution says you have to say so help me god.”
    Funny, I don’t remember the word god being in the constitution.

    • http://gloomcookie613.tumblr.com GloomCookie613

       What concerns me is that this guy doesn’t know basic rights, but is a part-time cop?  Does he pay as much attention to what the laws say as he does to what our Constitution does?  If so, I’m glad I don’t live in that town!

  • http://dogmabytes.com/ C Peterson

    There is some irony in the fact the Washington was almost certainly not a Christian. His prayers were typically to Providence, not God and certainly not Jesus. I think the majority of people supporting the placement of a sign like this would consider Washington’s actual religious views to be blasphemous!

    • Falconer33

      I heard a historian talking about that famous painting and the fact Washington wouldn’t have wasted time praying, he was to busy acting.

      • http://dogmabytes.com/ C Peterson

        I expect that’s true… although it is also true that Washington was known to pray, and wrote many prayers- mainly thanksgiving prayers, not supplication prayers. He wasn’t the atheist Jefferson was, but he sure wouldn’t measure up to what a modern American Christian fundamentalist would expect of a political leader.

    • Anonymous

      I suspect Washington probably would  have identified himself as a “Christian,” but certainly not in any form modern fundamentalists would endorse. And his endorsements of “Providence” were, I imagine, born of sensitivity and concern that something much like the current “Christian nation” assertions might be made one day. Many of his presidential actions were taken with conspicuous concern for the precedent he was setting.

      On another  note, the picture looks to me like an illustration of a Parson Weems fable about Washington, that an antiwar Quaker saw Washington, as Revolutionary general, on his knees in prayer in the woods, and was thus converted to active support of the colonists’ cause. If so, then even this emblem of Washington’s supposed piety merely illustrates a fictional occurrence.

      • http://dogmabytes.com/ C Peterson

        In fact, Washington did not identify himself as Christian, despite many opportunities to do so (he often attended Christian churches, but never chose to identify formally with any of them). Letters that he wrote, and the opinions of those who knew him personally, suggest he was more-or-less a deist, although possibly placing more value on certain Christian concepts than other important founders did.

        I think it is certain that his personal philosophy of military strategy and statesmanship was not based on “In God We Trust”!

        • Anonymous

          I know he never formally joined a church, and that he was carefully vague about his personal beliefs, even in private. If pressed, I think, he’d probably identify as a generic sort of Christian – it’s not like there were many other big options in early America: practically no Buddhists or Muslims, very few Jews, no Mormons yet, and “atheist” was about  the nastiest thing you could call someone (some things haven’t changed much, have they?). But I emphasize that he wouldn’t have been anywhere close to what modern fundies would accept as a Christian. From my reading, Deists of the time came almost entirely from Christian traditions, particularly Protestantism, and rarely made a clean break.

          But no, his military and  political philosophies certainly weren’t based on the Cold War motto. Washington was eminently practical about such things. American actions since “In God We Trust” have usually hedged those bets too, but recent generations of politicians have had higher thresholds of hypocrisy than Washington.

  • http://twitter.com/InMyUnbelief TCC

    I got a similar comment to the “too smart” remark. It would have been amusing if it weren’t so pathetic.

  • Good and Godless

    In the realm of equal representation Atheists deserve representation on money, in pledges and in anthems.

    “In god we trust and god does not exist”
    “One nation under god without god existing”
    “swear to tell the whole truth so help me god that does not exist”

    So if dropping ‘god’ is unpalatable… just add our viewpoint too.

  • Santiago

    That is some ugly sign.

  • Karrie

    It is ridiculous — but not as bad as what our legislators and governors have done in Mississippi: http://www.nytimes.com/2001/03/25/us/national-news-briefs-in-god-we-trust-motto-for-mississippi-schools.html
    I’ve often wondered how far I’d get if I tried to fight it, rather than just “forgetting” to put up the sign every school year. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/John-A-Anderson/100000016895400 John A. Anderson

    It’s true that Washington occasionally attended church, but he rather conspicuously declined to take communion. This may have been some sort of compromise with his wife, who apparently was devout. We’ll never be sure, but I doubt Washington was religious at all. He certainly wasn’t a Christian, and that painting is just silly.

  • pagansister

    Am pleased an atheist actually got elected AND reelected to a public office. He must have done something right, for that to happen.  The picture is—-unattractive to say the least.    Those that think we were intended to be a “Christian nation” really don’t, IMO, know their history.   The folks  who decided to put “In God We Trust” didn’t know the founder’s religious history either.  Also adding “under God” to the Pledge?  Really?  Why?  When pledging I skip those 2 words.  As I have asked and it has been asked by many I expect:  Just whose god would we be trusting our selves to?       Whether Washington, Adams or any other founder attended church or not, IMO they didn’t intend to make this nation a land of one faith.     


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