Tate Reeves, Mississippi’s Lieutenant Governor and one of the candidates who is running to become Mississippi’s next governor in an election later this year, is afraid of American values. Specifically, he’s afraid of a diversity of thought. This is why he’s lashed out against a range of secular groups for rightfully criticizing license plates in Mississippi that state the nation’s motto, “In God we trust”. It’s worth noting that in Mississippi if you want to get other license plates you have to pay more than people who decide to just go along with the IGWT license plates. This has been called a “tax” on non-Christian Mississippians, but it’s more accurate to say it’s a tax on anyone who dislikes infusing church and state because Christians can be opposed to these license plates as well and to ignore that downplays the valuable efforts of Christians who recognize that American separation of church and state is something which protects everyone including Christians.
Some of the groups who’ve criticized Mississippi for its license plates include the American Humanist Association and Americans United for Separation of Church and State. Lt. Governor Tate Reeves is far from alone as Hemant Mehta of The Friendly Atheist has pointed out since multiple GOP primary contenders for the nomination to become the Republican nominee for governor have decided to bank on Christian voters in Mississippi choosing fear over history. These politicians are all participating in a long tradition of theocratic conservatives hoping their voters are historically ignorant or at the very least decide to ignore history and vote based off of their feelings while claiming to be conservative and respectful of our nation’s traditions.
American values and mottos:
Republican lawmakers and elected officials in states like Mississippi, particularly when they or a law of theirs comes under attack, bank on their voters being ignorant of American history and resort to a variety of silly sayings with the example in this particular case being loud proclamations that “In God We Trust” is a part of America’s history and that alone is why it should be defended. Oddly these same people never defend E. Pluribus Unum, “Out Of Many, One” with the same ferocity, even though in an American context it’s an older saying that reflects a positive and inclusive American tradition: acceptance of diversity and freedom of thought proving that there are in fact also mottos worth being aware of and fighting for.
I know many of my usual readers know this already but “In God We Trust” is only our national motto because in the past politicians chose to be moved by fear. Politicians, fearing communists in the mid-1950s decided to make “In God We Trust” our national motto as a way to show how we were different from communists. Is fear an American value? If so, then I suppose I can’t blame conservatives for flocking to the newer motto, but if conservative voters in Mississippi believe in American greatness and traditional values than perhaps they should contemplate being accepting of freedom of thought which is a traditional American value. Freedom of thought is an American value as old as the country and it is one of the great bases upon which the United States has been built.
Lt. Governor Reeves’s genetic fallacy to the people of Mississippi:
One of the bad habits of conservatives like this is that they, in an effort to rally their base, refer to themselves as representative of all of the people of their state. An example of this comes from Lt. Governor Reeves himself.
Lt. Governor Reeves says his values are those of Mississippians. All of them. He also refers to the secular groups opposing the license plates as “Out of state liberals”, ignoring the reality that it was Mississippians who asked for the groups to intervene and s considerably more important point that it shouldn’t matter where the objections come from.
The argument that Lt. Governor Reeves is making is an example of the genetic fallacy as well as an attempt to poison the well against his critics. To ignore that is to unreasonably give the Lt. Governor unnecessary and undeserved wiggle-room.
The genetic fallacy is what it sounds like, an effort to base the truth claim or value of a claim in relation to where it’s origins happen to be. In this case, the fallacy stems from the Lt. Governor referring to his critics as “out of state” as if that has any value relative to the relevance or accuracy of the claims made by the critics, which it doesn’t. If he had it his way his voters would dismiss the claims made by secular groups because the secular groups are based in other states even though they are national organizations with members all over the country. The attempt to poison the well comes from both the previously highlighted remark and of course the usage of the word “liberal” in reference to groups, a claim which isn’t particularly true as the organizations have a variety of members with a range of different political views and the remark clearly came from a place of partisanship from the Lt. Governor who is trying to imply that the people of Mississippi need a strong conservative leader, which of course a Democrat could never be.
What should happen from here?
People should continue to watch what happens relative to Mississippi’s license plates. This is an important issue and it’s one well worth paying attention too, the people of Mississippi shouldn’t be punished for not being Christian or for being Christians who dislike efforts by politicians to slide Christianity into the government. We should also keep an eye on what other politicians in the state do, especially those running for governor. The gubernatorial election in Mississippi is taking place this year, and the primary is quickly approaching. The primary elections for both parties will be decided on August 7th, 2019 and there are three Republicans running, all of whom are elected officials or public servants, and the Democrats are choosing between a total of seven candidates. It’s entirely possible that this issue will become something that Mississippi’s politicians try to leverage one way or another, and Republican contenders for governor are already enjoying the attention that’s coming to their state thanks to this issue.
For them, this isn’t about creating an inclusive, constitutional, and thriving Mississippi. This is about either staying in power or gaining power, which is why they are okay with their voters choosing fear over freedom. I sincerely hope that Democratic candidates for governor in the state of Mississippi go in a different direction and welcome the move by secular groups to ensure that many of Mississippi’s residents don’t have to pay extra just to have a license plate that they feel can adorn their cars or vehicles without stating something they don’t believe in.
Luciano Joshua Gonzalez-Vega runs Sin/God and is the column’s sole author. The Puerto Rican writer is constantly working, whether he’s creating content for his YouTube channel, searching for freelance writing jobs, studying to finish earning a Master’s of Arts degree in peace & conflict studies, discussing various topics with his friends online such as on Wednesday nights with fellow YouTuber Wonder Lady as the co-host of the Humanist Perspectives program, or as a general guest on a range of different YouTube channels. He is an independent content creator and columnist who dreams of being financially independent and able to self-finance a consultant’s business aiding businesses and organizations that find themselves burdened and needing conflict management services and even hoping to one day have a nationally syndicated radio show wherein he aids people dealing with workplace or familial conflicts and also advocates for humanistic approaches to the problems of the day.
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