Mississippi Forces "In God We Trust" on Schools

The state of Mississippi has passed a law mandating the posting of “In God We Trust” at all schools. The article referenced here says the money for the posters/plaques will be donated so state funds won’t pay for it. Well whoop-de-frigging-do. That really isn’t the issue.

Other states have passed laws allowing schools to post this, and I don’t know if any schools have done so yet or if ACLU lawsuit threats have kept them in check. This is the first that I know of to mandate it. And, what’s worse, the article notes, “State lawmakers unanimously passed the bill mandating the posters in schools this week.” So, apparently there is nobody in that state representing people who want church and state to remain separate.

One city councilman quoted as offering to donate money also said: “Hewes hopes the posters will promote a higher quality of life and good moral values among students. The message, he said, might even convince some students to shy away from the violence that has plagued some schools in recent years.” Jeez, is this guy a moron? Yeah, some kid was planning to come in and shoot up the school, but he saw this poster and said, “Wow. If we trust in God, I’d better not do that.” Give me a freaking break.

This issue is going to force the courts to take a stand on “IGWT.” I only hope it’s the right stand. My guess is that they will rule that it’s okay on money but not okay in a school situation. It will take some tricky maneuvering, but they’ll find a way. Heaven forbid (so to speak) they should actually recognize that it shouldn’t even be on our money…

Forgot to mention:

Looks like it’s time to send more donations to Americans United for the Separation of Church and State. I’ve already upped my annual contribution once this year, with the Bush presidency and all. <sigh>

I notice that the Biloxi Sun-Herald helpfully provides contact information at the end of the article for anyone who wants to make a donation to the American Family Association to help pay for the plaques. How lovely.

Those two donating sites both sound like big scams:)

Ah to be young, in high school in Mississippi, and inclined towards vandalism . . .

What?! How could you imply such a thing? Don’t you know that just seeing these words will make any high school student immediately drop all thoughts of vandalism or other illegal activity? Sheesh.

You know ,it is better than taking away one of my rights and possibly making me vulnerable because I won’t be able to protect my own.If it helps even a little I’m for putting it on all public buildings.As a matter of fact I’m looking for a chisel and big rock right now.

http://www.msnbc.com/news/wld/National/Tables/educationSpending.htm?child

(Note: Click on the printable version, Mississippi is way down there, right above Utah.)

Freud might say they are now forced to trust God, they can’t even trust the taxpayers to pay for education.

justwannano: Care to explain?

You see, posting that on public schools is taking away rights – the rights of the children to have freedom of (and from) religion.

As for your statement that “If it helps even a little…” Well, first you have to show that it does.

As long as the money is privately donated, could someone start a fund collecting money to post in our schools a lovely quote by Thomas Jefferson? I don’t know, something about a wall of separation between church and state. I know that we can’t get a law passed FORCING the schools to hang these plaques. But if the money is privately donated, then why can’t we get these plaques mounted… say, right above the IGWT plaques? :slight_smile:

Quix

How about OVER them instead?

If I was in the Mississippi legislature when this law came up for consideration, I would have proposed an amendment that stated that they should at least post the full saying: “In God we trust…All others pay cash.” :wink:

Sure David

I don’t believe that just because it is printed anywhere it takes away anyones rights. You, me, they have the right to believe it if you want.
Hell if everyone lived what they read above the door this would already be a perfect world.I’m assuming that everyones ancestors went through doors that had something like “in God we trust” above them.They are all church going evangilists ,aren’t they?
Further more if they just lived what they were taught all parocial students would be ministers and be perfect models for all of us.
But we know that ain’t the case.

Now if you really want to protest I suggest finding somewhere it says"Justice for all".

Well, that’s where you’re wrong. Because it’s the government doing it, which means a government endorsement of religion – which takes away the rights of those who don’t believe in the “God” they proclaim “trust” in.

Yes, people have the right to believe it if they want. But they don’t have the right to force that belief on others.

Force Smorce.

Hell people don’t even obey no parking signs.

If you were actually physically forced to do it then thats something else.

How about if we adopted as our national motto, and printed on our money, and put up in all the schools, “White people are superior”? That wouldn’t violate anyone’s rights, now would it?

We could print “Only Monotheism is Legal” on all money in in school hallways. That’s the actual implied assumption anyway.

I wasn’t going to comment in this thread, but I can’t resist in this case. David, regardless of whether the government should or shouldn’t put “In God We Trust” anywhere, IF they do it, how does that “take away the rights of those who don’t believe in the ‘God’ they proclaim ‘trust’ in”?

Suppose my state passed a law mandating that all Alabama schools post a sign that says “In Man We Trust”. How would this take away a single solitary right of mine? I will continue believing what I believe. None of my rights have been violated at all.

Two notes:

First of all, once again I point out that DavidB’s opinion about separation of church and state vis-a-vis the First Amendment (or, more properly in this case, the Fourteenth Amendment’s selective incorporation of the Establishment and Free Exercise clauses into due process) is not the law of the land. Government is not required to be completely religion neutral, let alone forced to avoid the issue of religion entirely. David believes it should be otherwise; his comments should be taken in that context.

Which is not to say that forcing schools to promote the message that “In God we trust” isn’t violative of established constitutional law. Applying the normal Lemon test (named after the case Lemon v. Kurtzman, 403 U.S. 602, 612-13 (1971)), we look first to see if the purpose of the state action is primarily religious, then whether it has a primarily religious effect, finally whether or not it excessively entangles government in religious matters. In applying this test, let me first point out that, while one could assert that any mention of God must have a religious purpose, that concept of this issue has been rejected by the Court.

Does the requirement passed in Mississippi have a primarily religious purpose? One presumes the Legislature there has covered this issue by making a series of findings that show that there is a secular need for some effort to establish a more ‘moral’ climate, yadda yadda. In general, the Court will not look behind the findings recited by a legislative body on this sort of issue. And, under past case interpretations, it is unlikely that the Court would find that the effect of posting “In God we trust” on walls, etc. would be religious. After all, application of this prong didn’t preclude the Court from allowing a nativity scene in Lynch v. Donnelly, 465 U.S. 668 (1984), wherein the majority found only an “indirect, remote, or incidental” benefit to religion. Finally, it would be hard to argue that posting such a phrase ‘excessively entangles’ government in religion, when provisions establishing Christian holy days as holidays as well as laws establishing Sunday as a day off have not.

Of course, the Court might not apply the Lemon test. Justice O’Connor, who has shown some substantial power in molding majorities on the Court recently, advocates a different test, based on whether the state action should be viewed as endorsing religion. Of course, Ms. O’Connor has yet to convince four justices to join her in applying such a test, and it is not likely that she can switch the vote of Justice Kennedy to join her in application of this test. Under such a test, of course, it would seemingly be hard NOT to invalidate a mandate that the school voice it’s approval of the concept of a God. On the other hand, Justice O’Connor is adept at re-formulating her tests as needed to reach a specific result, so I wouldn’t be laying bets down even if she did manage to drag in Justice Kennedy.

Finally, let me address the philosophical argument underlying the OP and subsequent posts. Obviously, even if it isn’t unconstitutional under the law as developed, that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be unconstitutional. But the First Amendment’s religion clauses have to be viewed carefully. Clearly, the framers of those clauses did not intend them to mandate a total absence of religion in government, whatever Mr. Jefferson may have thought; witness the fact that the national and state legislatures have always had invocations to start sessions, and even the original federal government had some religious influence in its doings. A more reasonable interpretation of the meaning of the clauses originally is that the national government was not supposed to try and favor one religion or church above any other, either by prefering one or by hindering the practice of any religion. Thus, a Catholic in Maryland didn’t have to worry that the national government, dominated by Anglicans, would freeze him out of participation in the federal aspect of the country. Extension of this principle to the states after adoption of the Fourteenth Amendment should not be surprising.

But there is a significant difference between a rule of law that allows a generally religious society from keeping its government from preferring a particular religion and a rule of law that requires a government to avoid any entanglement with or endorsement of religious concepts. When David says that “Because it’s the government doing it, which means a government endorsement of religion – which takes away the rights of those who don’t believe in the “God” they proclaim “trust” in…” his underlying assumption is that, as a resident of the US, he has a right to have his government be areligious, totally uninterested in the concept of religion. But we don’t HAVE such a right, at least not written into our Constitution. Those who seek an areligous government need to obtain such a right before we can expect to avoid actions such as we see in Mississippi.

Imagine, for a moment, that there were a city in Mississippi in which NOBODY believed in God, let alone trusted him. The Mississippi state legeslature has taken away the rights of these people to not recognize God (or god) in any way, as is guaranteed by the first amendment to the US Constitution.