New data reported by Americans United for Separation of Church and State (AU) indicate the ongoing evangelical Project Blitz campaign has been notably effective in inserting “In God We Trust” signs into American schools and emblazoning state and local government buildings and vehicles with that religious phrase.
But that’s not all.
In 14 states, nearly half a million American school children are daily exposed to these faith-promoting signs — “in every class, lunch period and assembly” — in states where legislatures have passed laws either mandating or strongly encouraging the practice, AU reported in a March 2 newsletter to members by President and CEO Rachel K. Laser.
“No matter what faith (if any) [students’] parents may raise them with,” AU noted, “the message is clear: Religion is as much a part of their public school education as arithmetic and the American flag.”
The use of the slogan “In God We Trust” by tax-supported entities has been upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court and lower courts in recent years as a traditional and “ceremonial,” not religious, reflection of the nation. My own state (South Dakota) last year also opted to mandate the signs in schools, unconvincingly claiming the fundamental goal was to promote patriotism, not religion.
And its insidious infestation among U.S. schools is not the religious phrase’s only encroachment into tax-funded realms of the public square. For example, 87 government venues in North Carolina alone displayed “In God We Trust” signs in 2019, as do such places and official vehicles in many other state and local facilities across the U.S.
Every time an American views these signs, they receive a shot of unasked-for religious indoctrination, however subliminally it might be registered in mind. Are atheists, for instance, supposed to just graciously accept such an insulting and marginalizing use of their tax dollars?
AU has been vigorously countering Project Blitz’s “systematic campaign to inject religious beliefs into secular laws throughout our country,” to the point that the evangelical organization has apparently started to feel the heat. Late last year, the group disingenuously changed its name (but not its stripes) to “Freedom for All.” The “freedom” the group promotes is the freedom of its members to violate others’ human rights if they conflict with Christian members’ deeply held religious values. Like the freedom to block abortions or access to contraceptives people legally seek.
You remember when Kentucky deputy county clerk Kim Davis in 2015 refused to give a marriage license to a same-sex couple because God supposedly condemns gays in the Bible. The courts demanded she do her job, but even after the U.S. Supreme Court refused Davis’ appeal from lower court rulings against her intransigence, she continued to defy the court order “under God’s authority.” This is exactly the kind of “freedom” Project Blitz cum Freedom for All insists on for believers.
Fortunately, Davis was ultimately jailed temporarily for contempt of court and in 2018 she lost the county clerk election. She has said she believes “we are living in end times” and that the Bible is infallible.
This is the world Project Blitz and other Christian Right zealots envision, where fundamentalist Christians — who don’t even speak for most Christians — have the authority to discriminate against and curb the rights of Americans who don’t share their religious views.
Laser announced a fund-raising campaign and offensive strategy targeted against Project Blitz.
“[B]ecause they are lavishly funded, relentlessly determined and willing to play the ‘long game,’ the people behind Project Blitz are perfectly content to make incremental progress — bill by bill, state by state, year by year — steadily chipping away at church-state separation. … [and] the resources behind their effort are extraordinary.” Laser wrote in the newsletter.
The “long game” includes not only expanding the “In God We Trust” distribution but also urging legislatures to pass resolutions like a “Proclamation Recognizing the Bible’s Place in History” and formal bills allowing government officials like Kim Davis to legally refuse to equitably do their jobs for religious reasons.
Each of Project Blitz’s proposed legislative measures “is carefully written to undo generations of law and language to honor church-state separation,” Laser wrote.
Laser said AU “expects a dramatic increase in the number of Project Blitz bills reaching legislative committees, especially those targeting school children,” such as measures that would require Bible classes in schools and allow religious clubs to discriminate against other students.
So, when Freedom for All tells you it wants to protect your freedom,” what they really mean is protect theirs by restricting yours.