To comply with new legislation, all schools in Kentucky must now display an “In God We Trust” sign in a prominent area of their schools prior to students returning this fall.
Writing for Kentucky.com, Valarie Honeycutt Spears reports:
When classes start in the next few weeks, every school in Kentucky will have to prominently display the national motto ‘In God We Trust’ as a result of a new law passed by the 2019 General Assembly.
One regional PTA president said Thursday that she thought the requirement violated the separation of church and state but didn’t anticipate launching formal opposition.
To comply with legislation filed by Republican State Rep. Brandon Reed, a minister from Hodgenville, some school districts have already put up mounted plaques or artwork in common areas. Others such as Woodford County, are still working out the details.
And when they say it’s to be displayed in a “prominent” area, they’re not kidding.
It doesn’t get more obnoxiously obvious than that.
It’s a clear endorsement of Christianity by the state, and this particular school for that matter. I’m not sure what exactly a hornet has to do with Christianity, but you don’t add your school’s mascot to the display unless you’re trying to double down on it… Especially in a town ironically named “Science Hill”.
This timeline keeps getting weirder and weirder.
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While “In God We Trust” is indeed our national motto, it wasn’t always our motto. Until July 30th, 1956, our unofficial national motto was “E Pluribus Unum”, or “Out of many, one.” This occurred after President Eisenhower gave a speech in 1954, where he justified the addition of “under God” to the Pledge of Allegiance by saying “In this way we are reaffirming the transcendence of religious faith in America’s heritage and future; in this way we shall constantly strengthen those spiritual weapons which forever will be our country’s most powerful resource in peace and war.”
The United States is not, and never has been, a ‘Christian nation’
Besides, anyone who has any knowledge of basic US history knows that the founding fathers of the United States were predominantly deists. (For more about this, check out my friend Andrew Seidel’s new book The Founding Myth: Why Christian Nationalism Is Un-American.)
But the inclusion of the Christian God on our money and as our motto was made during the era of the Cold War as an attempt to differentiate the United States from the communist Soviet Union.
It’s little surprise that Kentucky would pass such legislation that blurs the lines between church and state. After all, thanks in part to $18 million in state tax breaks, Kentucky is where Ken Ham chose to build his recreation of Noah’s Ark. Mine you, the ark was never actually built in the first place, so I’m using the term “recreation” very loosely here (my wife and I visited the Ark Encounter on opening day, and you can read more about the mind-numbing experience here).
Thankfully, it doesn’t seem that everyone is fully on board (pun intended) with the display in Kentucky’s schools, as Spears points out in her Kentucky.com article:
Penny Christian, president of the 16th District PTA that includes Fayette County, said Thursday that she thought the law was a violation of “separation of church and state.”
“I think it’s a blurring of the lines,” she said.
Christian said she hadn’t received complaints or requests to fight against it and she didn’t foresee winning if a fight was initiated.
She said there were education issues in Kentucky that were much more important to kids, such as keeping the decision-making powers of school councils intact including preserving parent participation, and funding public education.
“We have to choose our fights,” Christian said.
It’s mildly amusing that someone with the last name Christian has the fortitude to speak out against this – especially given her role in a very conservative state.
Yes, it’s our national motto, but that doesn’t mean it’s right to display it in a public school. It’s a literal government endorsement of a specific religion at a time when the most popular religious affiliation in the United States is “none.”
The government endorsing Christianity is bad for everyone – especially Christians.
Yes, it seems like a great idea now if you’re an evangelical Christian. Evangelicals want nothing more than to change our constitutional republic into a theocracy. It’s the sole reason why they’ve ignored all the extremely non-Christian behaviors of Trump – he promised them he would repeal the Johnson Amendment, among other things.
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But even the evangelical movement shouldn’t want this. After all, most religions are essentially snapshots of a society’s culture and values at the time of their creation, and they seldom change. After all, when people have tried to get religions to change, more often than not, they’re met with heavy resistance (I’m looking at you, Galileo).
As an example of these cultural snapshots, take a look at some not-so-great verses from the Christian Bible:
If two men are fighting and the wife of one of them comes to rescue her husband from his assailant, and she reaches out and seizes him by his private parts, you shall cut off her hand. Show her no pity. (Deuteronomy 25:11-12)
Then there’s this gem:
Wherefore David arose and went, he and his men, and slew of the Philistines two hundred men; and David brought their foreskins, and they gave them in full tale to the king, that he might be the king’s son in law. And Saul gave him Michal his daughter to wife. (1 Samuel 18:27)
Clearly, at least in the US, we don’t chop women’s hands off or use foreskins as some kind of weird currency to buy a wife. These verses from the Bible that Christians ignore do not represent any rational person’s beliefs or values.
Or maybe that’s how they roll in rural Kentucky, idk.
Christians should be opposed to the government endorsing religion because over time, the government will endorse one particular type of Christianity and ostracize those who don’t subscribe to the same specific sect. Sure, it’s fine now, but that won’t be the case as things continue to snowball forward.
If nothing else, it’s somewhat amusing to me that Christian conservatives love to tout the Second Amendment – their right to bear arms – while ignoring the preceding text of the First Amendment:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.
If conservative Christians truly believe that their ideology is correct, they shouldn’t have to use strong-arm tactics to try to indoctrinate others. It’s the same reason I oppose any laws that ban or impede the right of anyone to practice whatever religion they believe in (provided they’re not endangering the safety of others).
If you genuinely think your system of beliefs are superior, there’s no reason to use force to spread your ideas.
The only reason to use laws to impose your religion is if you know your religion is too weak to stand on its own.
To be fair, that’s really the only pseudo-rational argument to be had in defense of religions like Christianity – the Bible is true because it says it’s true. There are few facts (and that’s being generous) and zero logical explanations to defend it. You’re stomping your feet, crossing your arms, and saying “this is true because I said so.” You can’t make a rational, coherent argument without throwing a fit and trying to force your beliefs down the throats of others.
Cover image: Science Hill Independent Schools via Kentucky.com