On Second Thought, Watauga Schools Will Take ‘In God We Trust’ Posters After All — As a Tool to Teach History

Headline in the Watauga Democrat (North Carolina), November 6:

Schools Decline ‘In God We Trust’ Posters 

Headline in the same newspaper, eight days later:

Schools Accept ‘In God We Trust’ Posters

As regular readers of this site may remember, the posters in question are framed photos of an American flag with the motto “In God We Trust” superimposed on it. They are being offered by American Legion Post 130.

The placards are now welcome in the public schools after all. Why the yo-yo-ing?

The school system [in Watauga County] originally rejected the gifts on the advice of attorneys … that the posters could be construed as a promotion of religion. …

[But] Interim Superintendent David Fonseca said this week that the school system will accept the gifts after considering N.C. General Statute 115C-81(g)(3a). The statute says school boards shall “allow and encourage” the reading or posting of documents reflecting U.S. history, such as the Declaration of Independence, the Pledge of Allegiance, and the national motto. “Local boards, superintendents, principals and supervisors shall not allow content-based censorship of American history in the public schools of this state, including religious references in these writings, documents, and records,” the statute says.

Ah. It’s totally not about the promotion of religion, you see — however did you get that idea? It’s about teaching kids history.


How far back do you reckon Watauga kids will be encouraged to go in their mastery of historical facts? Congress didn’t pick “In God We Trust” as a national motto until 1956, at the height of the Cold War. If the American Legion consists of such committed history buffs, who wish to impart historical facts to captive schoolchildren, how about they present posters with the beautiful motto E Pluribus Unum, in official use in the U.S. since 1782? There’s nothing historical about “In God We Trust” that isn’t roughly four times historical-er* about E Pluribus Unum (“Out of Many, One”).

The obvious explanation is that E Pluribus Unum wisely includes all Americans, and American Legion chapters now put much time and effort into religious advocacy, seeking to paint non-theists as less-than-patriotic outsiders.

The most remarkable reaction I’ve seen — a physical threat wrapped in velvet — came from “In God We Trust” supporter Keith Honeycutt, who wrote:

What day and time will the NAACP and all the rest of the socialist suits show up with the lawsuits? I am sure there are several folks that would like to say hello to them and escort them right back out the way they came in.

I’m not certain why Honeycutt would see an organization of African-Americans — whose unofficial hero is the most famous U.S. reverend who ever lived — as hostile to religion. Perhaps Honeycutt committed a (Freudian) slip of the pen, and he meant to refer to the ACLU. Even so, especially for a controversy in a Southern state, the comment is a bit chilling.

(*May not be an actual word.)

About Terry Firma

Terry Firma, though born and Journalism-school-educated in Europe, has lived in the U.S. for the past 20-odd years. Stateside, his feature articles have been published in the New York Times, Reason, Rolling Stone, Playboy, and Wired. Terry is the founder and Main Mischief Maker of Moral Compass, a site that pokes fun at the delusional claim by people of faith that a belief in God equips them with superior moral standards.

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

    Uh, NAACP suing on a separation of Church and State issue? Is there something I am missing? Is it because White Jesus and Black Jesus are forced into separate classrooms, because I’ve been assured that even though White Jesus and Black Jesus have separate times of indoctrination, they are total equal in the eyes of the school board.

    • Rob P

      I don’t know their official position, but I hope the NAACP id for the separaion of church and state.

  • koseighty

    Historical-er is a perfectly cromulent word.

    • Fentwin

      It embiggens one to use it whenever possible.

      • 3lemenope

        I dunno. Eleventy bajillion times would be just a few too many.

        • Fentwin

          hehe, no matter how noble the spirit.

    • VCP

      That smacks of Cromulism.

  • Gideon

    Fantastic! Someone send them a copy of the Treaty of Tripoli to add to their historical document displays. According to the law they can’t censor it based on its content…

    • Johnlev

      I was going to post something like this but serous question here. Maybe Hemant can take up a collection to have plaques made up w/ the Treaty of Tripoli’s – Not a Christian Nation clause and donate them to the schools as well? I’d chip in.

  • busterggi

    Everything before 1956 was just a rehearsal for the ‘real’ United States – that’s why the Civil War doesn’t count in southern history books.

  • vulpix

    I hope they’ll continue the history lesson with additional phrases from the Founding Fathers. Here are a few suggestions:

    “Of all the tyrannies that affect mankind, tyranny in religion is the worst.” –Thomas Paine

    “The way to see by faith is to shut the eye of reason.”–Benjamin Franklin

    “The Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion.” –John Adams

    • eric

      Why not just bundle them together on a single poster?

    • historyisashistorydoes

      And while we’re at it, let’s include the “Indian Savages” bit from the Declaration of Independence. Perfect for the Thanksgiving season! Having kids study quips from the Founding Fathers will show them that a historical document, including the recent In God We Trust motto (hey, if I was born during its inception, then it’s recent ;-D), doesn’t automatically mean it’s something we should see as the end-all be-all of thought. Our Founders held some beautiful ideals and they held some not-so-beautiful ones.

      • Matt Potter

        I had never heard of the “Indian savages” reference before so I went back and reread the Declaration. It’s much worse than I anticipated. I assume the ‘all men are created equal’ certainly did not apply to the native inhabitants as well as many others. Here’s the complete paragraph, “He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.”

  • eric

    how about they present posters with the beautiful motto E Pluribus Unum

    That there’s some furrin words, is why! If English was good enough for Jesus, its good enough for Watauga!

    • Amor DeCosmos

      That’s why God made the King James Bible in English!

  • WallofSleep

    How about posters with some of the more horrific (there are many) passages from the bible. Then in class, ask the children what they think is wrong with these horrible verses.

    But of course we can’t do that. It would be violating the constitution.

    • The Other Weirdo

      I don’t see why that would be so. We did it with Shakespeare. If you read the Bible for analysis and not for forcing its message down everybody’s throat, is it still unconstitutional?

      • WallofSleep

        I think what you describe would be fine for a college course.

        What I attempted to describe, poorly, was using public school classrooms to promote atheism, which I think would be just as unconstitutional as using them to promote religion.

        • Saara Wintersgill

          It’s legal to use biblical passages in the public school classroom for literary studies… Though I wouldn’t say it holds much literary credit.

          • WallofSleep

            Not the bible itself, but a great deal of classic literature used biblical references, terms, colloquialisms, and so on, that would not necessarily be understood without some knowledge of the bible itself.

  • Britomart49

    I am tempted to make up a small sticker

    Which god?
    and attach them to all the posters I see

    My grandfather was a founding member of American Legion Post #1 in Paris.

    He would be furious at this misrepresentation of history..

    • WallofSleep

      Holy crap! That’s a lot of deities. No wonder this world is such a mess. To damn many cooks in the kitchen.

      • Itarion

        But some of them make such good souffles! The question remains though: who’s souffle is the best? [Unfortunately, these being gods, this question tends to lead to some serious wars.]

        • WallofSleep

          Then I have to ask, can god make a souffle so awesome that even he could not make it collapse?

          • Itarion

            Some of them, some of them. Dugnai of Lithuania, Fornax of Rome, Inari of Japan, Kuju of Yukaghir, Toyo Uke Bime of Shinto tradition. Gods associated with baking or food. The rest tend to destroy it in some fashion.

    • Crash Override

      I would instead add a sticker proclaiming “All Others Pay Cash”

      • NG

        One of the cases where the movie is better than the book. Oh, were we not discussing Jean Shepherd’s book, In God We Trust (All Others Pay Cash)?

        • Crash Override

          I TRIPLE-dog-dare anyone to think otherwise.

    • Anathema

      Thanks for posting that link. I’m glad that someone has tried to collect the names of all the various gods that human beings have worshipped in one place.

      That being said, the people who run godfinder really need to clean up their website. Even just casually scrolling through the gods whose names started with A-C, I was able to spot several spelling errors and a number of occasions where the same god was listed multiple times.

  • 3lemenope

    I’m not certain why Honeycutt would see an organization of African-Americans — whose unofficial hero is the most famous U.S. reverend who ever lived — as hostile to religion. Perhaps Honeycutt committed a (Freudian) slip of the pen, and he meant to refer to the ACLU. Even so, especially for a controversy in a Southern state, the comment is a bit chilling.

    Some folks’ hate for the ACLU, the NAACP, and other activist alphabet-soup orgs is utterly resistant to facts, sometimes with funny-if-they-weren’t-sad results. I seriously can’t count how many times someone (left or right) sees the ACLU is involved in a kerfuffle and starts ranting and frothing, only for it to be pointed out by me or others that the ACLU is on their side in the case. This leads to grumble-mumbling and a sudden recollection of being needed elsewhere.

    • WallofSleep

      I’ve found that a lot of folks don’t even know why they hate these organizations, but they do know that their favorite squawking-head pundit does, and that’s all they need to know.

  • Eve

    I should stop reading things like this when I’m already frustrated – I’m so close to just screaming at my screen and punching it in that it’s not even funny. Sigh. I fucking loathe people, and even more so I fucking loathe where this country has found itself. I wish I could fast forward to thirty years from now when all the old assholes are dead and atheism is even more prominent. This shit just pisses me off.

    • WallofSleep

      I think it’s called “Headline Burn-Out”.
      Most reporting is on the negative side of life, and reading article after article or headline after headline can really wear on a person after a while. When that happens to me, I take a little “news vacation” for a few days and find something else more positive to occupy my time. Like mowing down virtual Nazi Zombies.

      • Mario Strada

        I race virtual cars on virtual circuits instead, but it’s the same therapy.

        One of the beautiful things about racing a car, virtual or real, is that you can only think about your next turn when you do it. I guess not unlike having to think about your next Nazi Zombie. Except that I can fulfill my childhood dream of being Jim Clark or Gilles Villeneuve.

      • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

        I enjoy taking a virtual bow and arrows to imaginary monsters, myself. You have to kite them, which takes some intense concentration especially in mob-rich environments. On the plus side, I’ve gotten pretty good at kiting two melee mobs while killing the @#($^#@ caster first.

        I’m having fun with Final Fantasy XIV right now :)

      • Eve

        I think finding something more positive to do would do me well. Perhaps investing some time into Dead Island would work. Or some UFC Undisputed 3. There’s nothing like having two gents beat the shite out of each other to make you feel better.

    • Carol Lynn

      Unfortunately, I said the same thing 40 years ago. For some reason a whole new crop of asshats grew up and are hanging on to the same idiotic ideas I thought sure would be obsolete and gone by now.

  • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

    I hope it leads to historical lessons about how religion was inserted into government by fear during the anti-communist witch hunts.

    • Itarion

      And then they can jump into some historical “ACTUAL” witch hunts! Here’s lookin’ at you, Salem.

      • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

        I hear ya. :-)

  • Neko

    How far back do you reckon Watauga kids will be encouraged to go in their mastery of historical facts?

    As far back as the War of Northern Aggression?

    • 3lemenope

      You mean “the late misunderstanding between the cessions”?

      (I had a professor who was from Mobile, Alabama. He loved referring to it that way in class [at a New England university] I tend to think just for the reaction it produced.)

      • Neko

        Ha! I hadn’t heard that one before.

  • Mario Strada

    No doubt the asshole was referencing the ACLU. But I think he hates the NAACP more so all those letters jumbled up.

    I think we (i.e. atheist and humanist organizations) should leverage the same principals and donate more posters to schools about those parts of US history we think better represent our heritage.

    Not only it would be a nice thing to do to offset this god craziness, but if we donate enough we could force their hand and severely overcrowd their frigging walls. Then what?

    I see this as a door opening in a sense. If the american legion can donate these ugly posters, so can everybody.

    • Artor

      Remember, in Wingnutese, all bad things are equivalent to all other bad things. Therefore, Obama is a socialistcommiefascistmuslimatheist, and the NAACP/ACLU/SPLC/MRFF/FTBullies are all one multi-armed. tentacled eldritch horror.

  • Estrogena
  • Raising_Rlyeh

    Nothing like a motto that basically says we can’t do anything without the help of a mythological tyrant.

  • WalterWhite007

    Keith Honeycutt doesn’t seem any more ignorant than most people of faith.
    It’s one the things that sets them apart from freethinkers, skeptics and non theists and most of Europe.