License to Ill

Virginia's In God We Trust license plate

Recently, Texas, under the watch of the bestest woman-hating Governor that ever did exist, began offering a license plate featuring the phrase “One State Under God.” Normally, I would chalk up this kind of blatant violation of separation of church and state to the backwards mentality of Texas in general, but after a quick image search on Google of “In God We Trust license plates”, I found that quite a few other states already offer this type of state-issued bumper sticker-type ideology.  Kentucky, South Carolina, Oklahoma, Georgia, Indiana, Florida, and Virginia (among others) currently offer license plates with “In God We Trust” boldly displayed, and even a (gasp) non-southern state like Ohio jumped on the Christian bandwagon.

Now I know what y’all are thinking… ‘What took Texas so long?! Texas is the Christian frontrunner in the not-so-Christian state mandated practice of blatant oppression and prejudicial bullying and they were one-upped by OHIO? WHAT??’

But Texas wasn’t to be one-upped. Oh hell no, goddamnit. They took it one giant step-for-mankind further and included a very prominent background image of the Crosses at Calvary. Awesome.

The Texas license plate brought up an unfortunate memory of a Facebook “conversation” I had last year with a former undergrad classmate of mine who has since become a family practice lawyer.  Even though we are not physically in contact, he will periodically weigh in on legal issues I broach in my Facebook posts, and I truly value his input. Quite often he has presented convincing legal arguments, citing the rules of the American judicial system, and applying them to cases that have raised the indignation of the general populace.

I was feeling particularly atheistic that day in 2011, and while driving to work I happened to see a Virginia license plate with its “In God We Trust” slogan boldly emblazoned on it, presumably put there to make us heathens tremble in our hell-bound boots. This was my post:

“I just saw a Virginia license plate on a car in front of me that had “In God We Trust” on it.  Isn’t that a violation of church/state separation? I didn’t think they could do that…”

Frank (we’ll call him) immediately commented that a judge had already ruled on a suit brought by a non-Christian resident of VA. The judge stated that because the phrase was so commonplace, it held no real religious meaning anymore and could therefore be used on federal and state-issued items. So of course I had to argue, as an Atheist (if they can capitalize, so can I), that to a Christian this phrase may not have a religious connotation anymore, but to an Atheist it was nothing BUT a religious statement with a clear religious connotation. I presented first-hand evidence of how an Atheist perceives the overweening presence of state-mandated, publicly displayed Christian-based icons/slogans; that it was tantamount to bullying; that it boldly and unapologetically separated Atheists out of the state’s population which in turn suggested that they simply did not exist to the citizen-elected legislators.

This license plate violation was perpetrated by people who refuse to believe that a very large portion of their constituents choose not to believe in a god, by people who truly believe that such people are abominations, or as George H. W. Bush put it, “I don’t know that atheists should be considered as citizens, nor should they be considered patriots. This is one nation under God.” And not only do they believe this and act on it, they are backed up by Christian judges.

Frank was unmoved by my arguments and still believes that a state-issued God plate is perfectly fine.

Frank still thinks that a prayer displayed on the auditorium wall of a public school is perfectly fine.

Frank still thinks that a Jesus statue displayed in a public park is perfectly fine.

Frank doesn’t get it.

And the worst part of this issue is that Frank doesn’t HAVE to get it.


By Kathryn Falcone

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