‘One Nation Under God’ Banner Taken Down from New Jersey City Train Trestle

Madison High School in New Jersey has an active fan club known as “Dodger Nation.” It’s not affiliated with the school, but they do things like running tailgates and hanging banners supporting the school’s teams.

Recently, they began selling lawn signs and window stickers with the words “One Nation Under God” underneath the logo:

None of that was an issue until city officials in Madison allowed them to hang a banner with the logo and phrase on an overpass:

That entanglement led to some residents asking the city to take down the banner — and Mayor Robert Conley finally did, much to the ignorant disappointment of Dodger Nation:

The controversial sign had been OK’d by Madison’s zoning office, [Dodger Nation member Mike] Waresk and Conley each said.

The mayor said the sign was likely approved because of “a pattern of approvals” that had occurred before. Dodger Nation has hung several signs — without religious references — from the trestle, Conley said.

But after hearing complaints about the sign connecting God and high school sports, Conley said, the sign was taken down.

“We ARE One Nation Under GOD!!!!!!” Kelly Raitt wrote on the page.

“Seriously??? What’s wrong with people. I loved seeing it was on the banner and even told my son what a joy it was. Jerks,” Sherri Blazier Mckinnon wrote.

Waresk told NJ.com Tuesday that it wasn’t the group’s intention to upset anyone.

“If anyone was offended, I apologize,” he said. “That wasn’t the intent.

It probably didn’t help that this was one of the photos in Dodger Nation’s Facebook photo album:

The Mayor made the right move, in any case. The issue here isn’t that Dodger Nation is using God in its signs — it’s a private group and the members can do that if they wish. The issue is that the city’s inadvertent promotion of those banners was unconstitutional. Unless the city is ready to hang a banner reading “God won’t help our teams… Hope they practiced!” this banner can’t hang on a city-owned overpass, either.

Too bad the members of and commenters on the Facebook page don’t seem to understand how the laws work.

(Thanks to Brian for the link!)

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.

  • iamfantastikate

    You know this is a brilliant, happening place when so much time and effort goes into high school sports.

    • Jeff

      From groups not actually associated with the high school in any way, even!

      • TychaBrahe

        Ever read a book called Whale Talk by Chris Crutcher? Brilliant YA fiction and very much about this sort of thing.

        • Watry

          Whale Talk is probably my favorite Crutcher book, followed closely by Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes and Stotan!. I should go reread it.

      • Alison

        Lol right??

      • Intelligent Donkey

        High School Sports is the new Religion.

  • Bitter Lizard

    Drink up.

    • Timmah

      AWWWWWW YESSSSSS SOOOOO YUMMMY!

    • The Other Weirdo

      It’s what Satanists use when fighting undead Christians.

    • cag

      The picture is wrong, it should be either NO PROOF or 0 PROOF.

    • Guest

      I’ve tasted enough of my own tears to know that I don’t want anyone else’s.

  • curtcameron

    As long as that’s our nation’s motto, I think it gives just about anyone cover for putting it anywhere. After all, it doesn’t really refer to any deities, it’s just fancy ceremonial language*!

    * according to the Supreme Court

    • Desertman50

      Except “One Nation Under God” is not our national motto.

      • curtcameron

        Nevermind. I am easily confused.

  • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

    I have to admit, I’m kind of stunned that you think “the city’s inadvertent promotion of those banners was unconstitutional” when, as curtcameron points out, it’s our national motto. Like it or not, it’s not unconstitutional for a city to display the national motto.

    Now, a city promoting a Christian Prayer event for public schools, I would think that would be another matter….

    • Desertman50

      Except “One Nation Under God” is not our national motto…

      • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

        Oh, ya. I’m not entirely sure that makes a difference though, given the phrase is in the pledge,and its similarity to the actual (sadly) official motto.

        Is it unconstitutional for someone to lead the reciting of the pledge at a city meeting?

        • Susanna Sharp-Schwacke

          Technically, yes, but they’ve gotten by with it and won judicial challenges because no one wants to take the final stand.

          • Mario Strada

            I also think that “E Pluribus Unum” or “One nation Indivisible” are far more inclusive and elegant mottoes than “One nation under God” It makes it sound like the taliban wrote it.

            Interestingly, wikipedia has all the changes made to the pledge over the years. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pledge_of_Allegiance

  • A3Kr0n

    Mayor Conley did the right thing. I sent him a thank you note.

    http://www.rosenet.org/content/contact_council

  • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

    Uh guys, just to remind you, “One nation under God” is not our nation’s motto. It’s not even our nation’s second motto.

    Remember the whole McCarthy era, red scare thing? I was there.

  • IAmAGuest

    Offended? How about: It’s not TRUE!

    But yes, it’s also offensive, because you’re promoting the false idea that your nation doesn’t include non-god-believers. It’s a fucking shitty thing to do.

    • IAmAGuest

      I realize now that I should’ve probably capitalized ‘not’ and not ‘true’ in that sentence…. damn it…

    • momtarkle

      Do you think that your second sentence enhances the good point that you made in your first sentence? If so, how?

      • Susanna Sharp-Schwacke

        It doesn’t detract from it at all. Both statements are true, goof on the capitalization or not.

  • LesterBallard

    One Nation Under Allah . . .

    • Itarion

      One Nation Under Brahma.

      • LesterBallard

        One Nation Under the Great Spirit . . .

        • Itarion

          That one’s historically accurate, at least the second half. One Nation, not so much at the time.

          One Nation Under Nyarlathotep.

          • LesterBallard

            One Nation Under Bob . . .

    • Highlander

      One nation under the atmosphere immediately above our territory.

      • LesterBallard

        One Nation Under a Raging Moon . . .

        • GubbaBumpkin

          One nation under threat from the raging Tea Party.

        • LesterBallard

          Roger Daltry? Keith Moon tribute?

      • Itarion

        One nation, both under and above the sun, depending on the gravitational perspective you use.

    • Mitch

      One Nation Awaiting the Return of the Old Gods…

      Cthulhu is coming! Repent and believe!

    • LesterBallard

      One Nation Under Medication . . .

      • Itarion

        One Nation, Under Debt.

    • Fentwin

      One Nation Under-funded

    • http://www.devithehuman.com/ Devi Taylor

      On Nation Under Osiris

  • momtarkle

    “The modern motto of the United States of America, as established in a 1956 law signed by President Dwight D Eisenhower, is In God We Trust.” according to my bud Wiki. (But, which god?)

    • Casey Jenkins

      that should be obvious. It’s stamped right on the American god.

    • Derrik Pates

      Cthulhu. That’s the answer. That’s always the answer.

  • http://www.last.fm/user/m6wg4bxw/ m6wg4bxw

    One Nation Underachieving Because of God

  • SeekerLancer

    Why would they put that on the banner in the first place other than to annoy people? Really.

    • Mitch

      Their god won’t allow them to live and let live. It’s in the very nature of their religion to go and make “disciples of all nations.”

      • Intelligent Donkey

        Their god also tells them to be persecuted. Which is very difficult when you’re part of the ruling majority.

  • Itarion

    Actually, I kinda like “God won’t help your team. (Hope they practiced.)”

  • Madison Atheists

    hemant, i am the co-organizer of madison atheist, a meetup group, and we actually had nothing to do with the removal of the banner. i had heard about it through an earlier posting (maybe somebody put it on facebook), before it was going to be removed. i don’t live in madison myself, but i heard from one of our members who lives there, that the banner has been moved to a local pizza parlor.

    it would be great to find the people who complained, at least to let them know
    that there is a local group of similar thinkers, at least about the separation of church and state (and public education).

    we’re going to have a booth (our first!) at the local town fair coming up soon, and i’m both optimistic and wary of the reaction from the townspeople, especially now since there’s been a “controversy”. i hope that we don’t get any undeserved “flack”, but i also hope that we’ll meet new allies.

    • Mick

      That shift-key is a real bastard to handle isn’t it?

      • Intelligent Donkey

        An attempt to distance themselves from the all-caps fundies?

  • UWIR

    From the link:

    bereal12
    “We all need to STOP catering to the few and let the masses be free this is crazy, all you nuts out there that have a problem with the word GOD you can just hand over all you $$$ to me “In GOD WE TRUST” right there on the bills baby and thats NEVER going to change nomater how much you libs dont like it.”

    Yet another piece of evidence that IGWT engenders bigotry and is unconstitutional.

    • http://www.devithehuman.com/ Devi Taylor

      Ugh, dem comments. Never have I wanted so badly to reach through the screen and slap someone. I blame it on the poor state of education in the country that people do not/can not seem understand what separation of church and state means.

    • Guest

      Since I take a Sharpie to my bills, god doesn’t stay on there long around me. I was even thinking about taking out my engraving pen to scratch out that word on coins.

  • Buckley

    I have a broblem with “private” groups using the symbols of the school in question for their “private” purposes. They should be made to conform to the law as the school has to if they want to use their name. This is similar to the “private” parent groups in southern states who have racist, white-only proms. But, it’s “OK” or “out of the school control” because it’s an outside group. Close the loop-holes.

    • GubbaBumpkin

      I know some colleges who have trademarked their logos and seals because of this.

    • Cat’s Staff

      I was thinking something along those lines, too. There was the case a few years ago about the signs on the side of the road in Utah with the logo of the State Patrol on them. The SCotUS said that was illegal, in Utah Highway Patrol Association v. American Atheists (actually they declined to hear the case, and it stood). If they are using the school logo it might be seen as government speech long before they put it on the bridge.

  • randomfactor

    Actually, I think now that the city’s withdrawn its approval it would be perfectly legal for the banner to go back up as a private action–unless there’s some kind of city reg requiring such approval, or unless it created some sort of hazard.

  • Mira

    Some of the commentors on that sound like something from the Onion…


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