Field of Science

Religious loonieness from the Land of Lincoln

To raise some much needed cash, a state legislator in Illinois has proposed vanity license plates for cars embossed to say “In God We Trust”, the brain child of Rep. John Bradley, D-Marion. Mr. Bradley says, “It’s an opportunity to give people that want to recognize their heritage an ‘In God We Trust’ motto on their license plates.”

It's a great idea Mr. Bradley, but you just didn't go far enough. How about selling slogan license plates to other constituencies? My Hindu friends would only want a small change “In Gods We Trust”, and it’s so small a difference most people wouldn’t even notice. I’d like to display a different religious heritage on my license plant. How about plates that read “In Reason We Trust”? I’ll happily contribute to the state coffers for this slogan. Well, I can guess why we aren't going to get such an option.

A local Lutheran minister once publicly stated that no one should have any problem saying “under God” while pledging allegiance to our country. This was a secular statement recognizing the Christian heritage of our country. Right. So how well did he react when I asked if we could make one little change, adding an s to make god gods? Well you can guess, he was outraged at the suggestion, but I had to ask why he was upset if this was just a secular statement? Well, of course, the motto on our money and the words “under God” in the pledge aren’t secular, and no honest person thinks they are. So we have the remarkable situation that in a country whose constitution guarantees freedom of religion, those of us of other persuasions must abide the arrogance of the religious majority and, nudge, nudge, wink, wink, acknowledge the one true religion with every transaction, with every pledge.

Even more amusing is the accusation that people such as myself in criticizing this motto are infringing upon the religious freedom of others. How so? Apparently forcing others to acknowledge the existence of a god is part of their belief system.

But back to the constitutional issue. Mr. Bradley doesn’t think this violates the separation of church and state because their purchase is voluntary. The idea is quite simple, the government, run as it is by our taxes, has no business promoting a religious position, and quite simply, this is a specific religious belief that is not shared by the entire public. So, either allow alternative slogans suitable to other beliefs and persuasions, or get Illinois out of the religion business altogether. And lastly Mr. Bradley, is this the best you could think of to help the state’s dire financial situation? No wonder Illinois is in trouble. It’s politicians like this that make me want an “In Reason We Trust” plate more than ever.

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