The Tri-City Herald ran a brief version of our press release this morning.
Here is the full release submitted to the paper:
FIRST AMENDMENT VIOLATIONS PROMPT LOCAL GROUP TO ADDRESS “IN GOD WE TRUST” MOTTO
PASCO, Wash., November 17, 2015 – A new and growing trend of “In God We Trust” decals being placed on government-owned vehicles has inspired a local organization to address the issue in a public forum this week. The Tri-City Freethinkers will host guest speaker Robert Ray, National Director of the Original Motto Project, to speak about “Restoring the Motto Our Founders Intended.” The free lecture begins at 2 p.m., Sunday, Nov. 22 at the Community Unitarian Universalist Church, located at 2819 W. Sylvester St. in Pasco.
The decals first appeared on police vehicles in Green County Missouri in the summer of 2014. It caught on and, according to the Original Motto Project’s interactive map that tracks each new occurrence, the current number of police and fire departments displaying the motto stands at 168, primarily in the Southern and Midwestern parts of the country. This is up from 142 just one week ago.
The controversial practice has drawn sharp criticism, even prompting at least one legal organization based in Wisconsin to issue warning letters to the departments. When a letter from the Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF) was received by Police Chief Adrian Garcia of the Childress Police Department in Texas, he responded with his own brief letter telling the organization to “go fly a kite.”
Upon hearing of the incident in Childress, Hunt County Sheriff Randy Meeks, also in Texas, said he wished he’d thought of adding the decals first. “Our country was founded on God. It’s time for us to make a stand and get back on track,” he said and added that if he receives a letter from FFRF he’ll tell them to “go butt a stump.”
The Mountain Grove Police Department in Missouri declared on their Facebook page, “We will not remove these stickers from our cars! Not today, not tomorrow, not ever. If anyone is protecting us, it’s most certainly the man upstairs!” Similar sentiments have been echoed in police departments from Florida to Michigan.
On several government-operated social media pages, citizens that protest against the decals are allegedly being censored, with dissenting comments being deleted and users getting banned from further interactions. Elected officials behind the pages aren’t attempting to be discrete about the censorship either. Some have openly declared that any who express disagreement will be silenced, prompting concerns of violation of free speech and the right to petition the Government for a redress of grievances guaranteed by the First Amendment.
In one instance, following a series of comments expressing disapproval of the decals added to police vehicles by Louisiana’s City of Central Police Department, a post on their official Facebook page warned, “…any comments posted deemed non-informative and supportive of the Central Police Departments [sic] intent to serve the citizens of Central will be removed.” According to Tri-City Freethinkers president, Jennifer Goulet, a national network of watchdog groups has been compiling evidence of this government censorship and endorsement of Christianity.
“In God We Trust” became the official national motto in the 1950s as a reaction to “godless Communism,” replacing the previous motto, “E Pluribus Unum,” (out of many, one). When challenged as a violation of the First Amendment, courts have upheld its placement in city halls and on currency on the basis that a “reasonable person” would not construe the phrase as a government endorsement of religion as the phrase is “traditional,” “has historical significance,” or is merely “Ceremonial Deism.”
However, the recent actions and statements of the sheriffs, police chiefs, and other government officials involved in this surge of pious posturing are calling into question the validity of the argument that “In God We Trust” is a phrase now devoid of religious meaning. The Original Motto Project contends that this escalating religious fervor over the current motto only bolsters their case against it.
Mr. Ray has been invited by the Tri-City Freethinkers to discuss the separation of church and state, paying specific attention to both national mottoes, their history, and the current controversy surrounding them. He will also talk about other First Amendment issues that are a result of the opposition to “In God We Trust.”
“The Tri-Cities has certainly seen its fair share of elected officials attempting to impose their religious beliefs on their constituents by abusing the power of their offices,” said Ms. Goulet, explaining why the organization decided to tackle the issue. “I wouldn’t be all that surprised to see it happen here. Disappointed, but not surprised.” Nonreligious as well as religious people are encouraged to attend this lecture. “A government entity imposing a particular religious view on its citizens should concern everyone who cares about religious freedom,” Ms. Goulet added.
The Original Motto Project is a nonprofit organization dedicated to restoring “E Pluribus Unum” to its rightful place as the national motto of the United States. More information is available at originalmotto.us.
The Tri-City Freethinkers is a nonprofit community outreach organization serving the religion-free population of the Tri-Cities area by bringing nonreligious community members together for support, education, and advocacy. Learn more at www.tricityfreethinkers.org.
In a very short period of time, hundreds of law enforcement agencies and city councils, primarily in the South and Midwest, have added and continue to add “In God We Trust” to government vehicles and buildings. Yes, it’s been our motto since the 1950s (the witch hunt against “godless Communists” caused it to be changed from E Pluribus Unum), and courts have upheld its placement in city halls and on our money (also only on paper money since the 50s) and “under god” in the Pledge of Allegiance (yep… since the 50s), but they have done so on the basis that a “reasonable person” would not construe the phrase as a government endorsement of religion as it is “traditional,” “has historical significance,” and/or is mere “Ceremonial Deism.”
However, what elected officials (and their supporters) are repeatedly proving through their actions, statements to the press, and on official government social media pages is that the phrase is very much a brazen endorsement of religion.
What should disturb you even more is that on most of these official government social media pages, any who dissent are being censored. Their posts are being deleted and people are being blocked from viewing the pages. The elected officials running the sites aren’t even attempting to be discrete about it. Many are openly and proudly declaring that any who express disagreement, no matter how civil, will be silenced. This is a blatant and truly horrifying violation of the First Amendment.
A network of watchdog groups all over the country is compiling screen caps as evidence of government censorship and explicit endorsement of Christianity. It can no longer be argued that the insertion of god into our government is merely traditional and secular in nature.
Robert Ray is the National Director of The Original Motto Project, an organization dedicated to restoring E Pluribus Unum to its rightful place as the national motto of the United States. He co-hosts the podcast, Secular Yakking, with his wife Amy and is the president of two Humanist groups in the Puget Sound area.
He is also a Humanist Celebrant and recently gave the opening invocation to the Washington State House of Representatives. He has been heard on Ask an Atheist, Atheist Nomads, Secular Radio, and most recently on Road to Reason TV.
Robert will discuss the separation of church and state, paying specific attention to both of our National Mottos, their history, and the current controversy surrounding them. He will also talk about other First Amendment issues that are a result of the opposition to In God We Trust.
It is the duty of each and every one of us to combat this descent into theocracy in America. If you don’t think it can happen, I ask you to look at what happened in Iran since the 1970s. We are on a dangerous path that is bad for Christians as much as it is for the rest of us. Be afraid. Be very afraid. But more importantly, be aware, be proactive, and be vocal.
Please come to this event on Sunday, November 22nd at 2 pm at the Community Unitarian Universalist Church at 2819 W. Sylvester St. in Pasco, WA to learn what actions are being taken and how you can get involved. Invite your friends and family. All are encouraged to attend, whether religious or nonreligious. Theocracy is a danger to all.
In this talk hosted by the Tri-City Freethinkers, David Silverman, Creator and Executive Producer of the Reason Rally and President of American Atheists, lays out why telling people God doesn’t exist and religion is a lie is not only effective, but downright nice.
Pre-order a copy of his forthcoming book, “Fighting God: An Atheist Manifesto for a Religious World” via smile.amazon.com. We appreciate it if you select Tri-City Freethinkers as your charity so that we can receive a percentage of sales.
Join the Tri-City Freethinkers on Saturday, October 17th at 10 am at the Community Unitarian Universalist Church located at 2819 W. Sylvester St. in Pasco for a brunch meet and greet with Jason Heap, the Executive Director of United Coalition of Reason. Jason is the first Humanist to seek (and be denied) chaplaincy with the Navy. He will talk about the military chaplaincy issues and the ongoing lawsuit. He will also discuss the benefits of forming a local chapter of the Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers, so all veterans, current members of the military, and their families are strongly encouraged to attend.
This is audio from the September 15, 2015 Kennewick City Council meeting at which members of the public, including some Tri-City Freethinkers, commented on Councilman John Trumbo’s proposed “Resolution affirming freedom of conscience,” which was then voted against 6 to 1 by the council. If you prefer to listen only to the comments from those opposed to the resolution, skip ahead to the 40 minute mark. The statements given by the 6 other council members make it worth listening to the very end.
Greta Christina at Mid-Columbia Pride Week event: What can the atheist movement learn from the LGBT movement?
For Mid-Columbia Pride week, the The Tri-City Freethinkers hosted author and public speaker, Greta Christina, who spoke about what the atheist movement can learn from the LGBT movement. This event was sponsored by the Pride Foundation.
Visit Greta Christina’s blog.
Purchase Greta’s books:
The firebrand president of American Atheists, David Silverman, will speak at Washington State University this Saturday the 26th of September at 3 pm in the East Building Auditorium in Richland. Silverman will explain why telling people God doesn’t exist and religion is a lie is not only effective, but downright nice in “Fighting the Lie of God.” This talk is free and open to the public.
Today, Wednesday, September 23rd, is the last day to purchase tickets to the Dinner with David Silverman fundraiser that follows the speaking engagement. Sales end at 11:59 pm. The dinner will be held at the Courtyard Columbia Point at 480 Columbia Point Dr. in Richland. Doors open at 5:30. There will be a no host bar and we’ll be awarding door prizes throughout the evening. We also have some great items up for auction with low starting bids.
In the Tri-Cities, this is likely a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to get up close and personal with America’s most well-known atheist, so don’t miss out!
Purchase tickets via Universe below.
If you’ve looked out your window or taken a breath outdoors, you are probably aware that we are in a state of emergency due to massive, rapidly spreading wildfires all over the state. Several people have inquired how we, as Tri-City Freethinkers, might be able to help.
I reached out to Rebecca Vitsmun with Foundation beyond Belief, who said, “Foundation Beyond Belief is monitoring the unfolding wildfire situation in Washington. They report that at this time monetary assistance is not needed by local officials and only highly specialized individuals are needed for volunteering. As with all disasters sending people or donations that are not needed create MORE of a problem by creating unnecessary work for the individuals working on the ground. Unsolicited donations and volunteers require management and take resources away from those truly in need.
“Foundation Beyond Belief discourages sending in-kind donations and self-deployment to Washington State. Humanist Disaster Recovery staff will continue to monitor the situation and will provide updates as appropriate.
“A previous blogpost written on Responsible Giving in Disasters can provide some additional clarity to our current decision.”
When: Saturday, September 26th at 3:00 pm
Where: Washington State University, Tri-Cities Campus, 2710 University Drive, East Building Auditorium, Richland, WA
About the guest:
David Silverman is the president of American Atheists and one of the best-known atheists in America. Known as “America’s loudest heathen,” a term he embraces proudly, Silverman is passionate about atheism and atheist equality. He has appeared on several TV programs for on-air debates, including, The O’Reilly Factor, Hannity & Colmes, Scarborough Country and CNN’s Paula Zahn NOW. He lives in New Jersey with his wife and child. His first book, Fighting God: An Atheist Manifesto for a Religious World, is currently available on Kindle and a hardback version will be available in December of this year.
Silverman was raised Jewish and went through the standard religious education, but never believed. In college, he engaged in many debates with Orthodox Jews, but, since Silverman’s style is fierce but not insulting, he became very good friends with many of his opponents, eventually marrying one of them.
Across the Internet and on TV, Silverman has been called rude, uncaring, and fascist (the latter by Bill O’Reilly), but the readers of Fighting God will realize he is none of those things. His methods ruffle feathers, but they work, and they work for the good of all people (except those who make money with religion). As Silverman’s Jewish mother told him on her death bed, he not only helps atheists, but every person in any religious minority, because in the end, he fights only for the equality that is due all of us.
Today, after nearly 20 years in activism, Silverman is arguably America’s best-known atheist activist. In Fighting God, Silverman lays out why telling people God doesn’t exist and religion is a lie is not only effective, but downright nice.
We are still accepting donations via our CrowdRise campaign to help offset the expenses involved in hosting this free event. Every little bit helps!
Questions? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Have you ever thought to yourself, “I really wish I could eat dinner with America’s loudest heathen”? Well, this is your chance! Following David Silverman’s talk at Washington State University, “Fighting the Lie of God,” join fellow freethinkers in welcoming the firebrand president of American Atheists, to the dinner table. Rub elbows with Mr. Atheist Pants himself while enjoying an entertaining evening with your fellow freethinking friends.
We will hold a silent auction to raise funds for future guests and activities, so please bring cash or a credit/debit card to show support for local atheists and win some nifty stuff!
Additional details available at our Universe event page.