by James A. Haught
Fundamentalists and Republicans who dominate Mississippi put “In God We Trust” on car license plates, forcing all drivers to promote religion. The only way a motorist can avoid the motto is to pay $30 extra for a special plate of one’s choosing. Gov. Tate Reeves declared that the 2019 action reflects the core values of the Deep Dixie state.
American Atheists, Mississippi humanists and others filed a federal lawsuit saying the motto violates the separation of church and state guaranteed by the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights.
“The phrase ‘IN GOD WE TRUST’ is rooted in hostility toward non-Christians and atheists, intended to convey the message that non-belief in the Christian god is un-American,” the lawsuit says. AA President Nick Fish added:
No matter how much Gov. Reeves or other politicians want to pretend that Mississippi is some kind of Christians-only club, it doesn’t make it true. Forcing atheist drivers to endorse a religious message they reject is antithetical to our values as Americans and unconstitutional, plain and simple.
In the past, various suits against the national motto have failed because the U.S. Supreme Court pretends that “In God We Trust” isn’t religious – instead, it’s what Yale Law School Dean Walter Rostow called “ceremonial deism.” But any schoolchild can see that it’s really religious.
To avoid past rejections, the Mississippi suit focuses solely on the law forcing car owners to pay for the sanctimonious plate – not on many other government actions touting the motto.
Actually, it’s a crime to trust god. Parents who let their sick children die while refusing medical treatment, trusting only prayer, are prosecuted. During my 70 years in newspapers, our wire services reported hundreds of cases in which such fanatical parents were charged with murder, manslaughter, negligent homicide and the like. Some were sent to prison. If you search Google for such cases, many pop onto your screen.
Here’s one example: Herbert and Catherine Schaible of Philadelphia – members of First Century Gospel Church – were put on probation in 2009 because they prayed until their two-year-old son died. Then they did it again, letting a new baby die – and they went to prison that time. Their church proclaims: “It’s a definite sin to trust medical care and pills instead of the Name of Jesus.”
Some cases are blurred by state laws protecting parents’ “freedom of religion.” Others are harsh: A preacher got a 30-year term for one death.
A BBC show called the pattern “murder by prayer.”
A 2008 book, When Prayer Fails: Faith-Healing, Children, and the Law, outlines what it calls “the profound human drama of religion-based neglect of children.”
It’s all about devout people who commit the crime of trusting god.
Footnote: I knew a Unitarian minister who told his congregation:
“I realize that some of you are offended by the motto, ‘ In God We Trust,’ on your money. Here’s a chance to get rid of that problem: We will collect the morning offering.”