“In No God We Trust.”
Thus saith the banners lining Main Street, where over 8 million tourists a year (not to mention the locals) walk in downtown Fort Worth.
Texas. Right smack dab in the soul of Bible Belt country.
The banners are part of an initiative to change the motto from “In God We Trust” to “E Pluribus Unum” – or, “Out of the many, one.” On July 14, 2019 Metroplex Atheist president Courtney Stewart and Aron Ra, two local atheists, will be discussing the need for the change.
If you need convincing that this change is needed, all you need to do is look at the intolerance in much of the city of Fort Worth.
Take for instance Matt Kimbrow, a local artist whose songs regularly rank high on the Texas charts. He wrote the following in a public post:
I can’t believe the city of Fort Worth is allowing this downtown. The signs offend me and should to everyone that has strong faith. I’ll be messaging Mayor Betsy Price. Kinda hard to support a city that lets this happen.
Matt Kimbrow, I live here. I’m an atheist. Day in, day out, I support the city of Fort Worth, in spite of the fact that I’m surrounded by Christian billboards, churches, bus signs, banners…hell, even my MONEY has “In God We Trust” on it.
And I don’t roll my eyes and moan about it. Why? Because we live in a free country. Because there’s a First Amendment. Because I have more confidence in my non-belief than you apparently do in your belief, and I don’t need to be coddled 24/7 in a cocoon that protects me from the fact that other people disagree with me.
Matt Kimbrow, you need to wake up and get a grip.
I think that Matt Kimbrow is a perfect example of why we need to change our motto. “In God We Trust” gives some people the wrong idea, as if they own our country, as if they can only support this country when other people fit their cookie-cutter version of belief.
That’s not the America I want to live in. I want to live in a more harmonious America, one in which we recognize our diversity and differences, and work for the humanity of each other in the midst of these differences.
Courtney Stewart and Aron Ra, two local atheists, are striving to make that point in the event the banners are promoting.
And for once, they aren’t alone.
Even Betsy Price, the conservative Christian mayor of Fort Worth, is begrudgingly on their side (bless her heart). As she stated after her office was overrun with calls:
I was appalled when I saw the banners currently being displayed downtown, as I do not support or agree with the message. While many of us may not agree with the message, the organization did follow policies and procedures set forth by the City & Downtown Fort Worth, Inc. We must respect freedom of speech. As we approach the Fourth of July, we must remember that many Americans have fought and died for the freedoms we cherish today.
The City of Fort Worth put out a similar statement:
The City of Fort Worth has gotten several phone calls and complaints about some of the banners that are currently displayed in downtown. While some residents might not like the messaging on these banners, we do not currently restrict religious messaging, as long as it follows the current policy and procedures for display banners.
The City of Fort Worth Banner Policy and Procedures allows a non/not-for-profit to place banners within the public right-of-way for the purpose of promoting the organization or special event held by the organization. The event must be in Fort Worth and open to the public, or of common interest to the general community.
The banners may be displayed no more than 6 weeks prior to the start of the event/exhibit and must be removed within 5 working days of the completion of the event/exhibit.
The City of Fort Worth works with Downtown Fort Worth, Inc. to administer the display banner program.
The Metroplex Atheists purchased the banners that are currently displayed in several downtown locations. They are holding an event on July 14, 2019, that fits the criteria necessary to purchase the banners.
If an organization meets the established criteria for purchasing the banners, the city cannot discriminate or dictate the content unless it contains profanity, threats or other inappropriate images.
The response is refreshing.
For the next couple weeks (including the Fourth of July, when downtown Fort Worth will host the biggest Fireworks show in North Texas), every one of the hundreds of thousands who visit downtown Fort Worth will be reminded, every day, that Christians do not have a monopoly in this country.
They will be reminded that this city, state, and country are rich with diversity, and that exclusionary politics does not work. They have to recognize diversity in beliefs, backgrounds, and positions. They have to work with atheists; they cannot relegate us to the sidelines of the public square. We are here, and we aren’t going anywhere.
They’ll be reminded, also, that the phrase, “In God We Trust” does not describe the city, state, or country, because many do NOT trust in God. Regardless of your religious or nonreligious background, you are part of this country. We are unapologetically diverse, multifaceted, and free to believe or not believe in any religion.
And out of the multitude of our diversity – not our false sense of homogeneity – will be the only way we can find harmony.
It is deeply encouraging to see Fort Worth atheists carrying the torch in this direction, and I am glad the local government is finally realizing how important the truth of our diversity is so that their efforts have a chance to spread. It’s a heartwarming story of how, in spite of the backlash, we can work together in the midst of our differences.
Or, as our motto put it, “E Pluribus Unum.”
The event being promoted will be in the Fort Worth Botanic Garden IRIS room on July 14th from 3-5pm, at 3220 Botanic Garden Blvd. It will be hosted by Metroplex Atheists president Courtney Stewart and Aron Ra.