FFRF member is proof one person can make big difference

The St. Louis Riverfront Times, Sept. 11: “Monica ‘Nikki’ Moungo, an atheist and a mother, made an impassioned plea to the Ballwin [Mo.] City Council, asking it not to put up a planned ‘In God We Trust’ sign on city property. Instead, Moungo told the council she’d like a sign with the motto ‘E pluribus unum,’ and she brought a $1,000 check to the meeting to fund it.”
FFRF salutes Nikki, an FFRF member and atheist who brought her two children to the meeting, for her activism. Her idea didn’t appear to get much support at the meeting but she didn’t give up and came back Sept. 22 to speak again [see below].

Her speech swayed the board, which proceeded to vote 6-2 against putting four-inch “In God We Trust” letters in the council chambers.

Transcript via Friendly Atheist Hemant Mehta:

Good evening, Mr. Mayor, Aldermen/women, fellow citizens:

Tonight I’m not going to tell you more about being an atheist, about secular humanism or why I feel these displays are unnecessary, even detrimental to our community. Tonight I’d rather discuss the intent behind the Knights of Columbus proposal. In West Newsmagazine, Mr. Strange of the K of C stated these displays are “an appropriate way to promote patriotism.” I beg to question the primary objective behind their proposal.

As a taxpaying citizen, I voraciously question the integrity of aldermen taking money from a religious organization in order to display their religious advertisement in a taxpayer-owned building.
If the mayor or aldermen are members of the Holy Infant Church, perhaps they should abstain from this vote, as it indicates a clear bias. But if this tax-exempt religious organization succeeds in paying city officials to advertise their religious message on taxpayer property, it must be allowed for taxpaying citizens to also have their various, religious or non, ads placed on these hallowed walls.

If this proposal passes, the aldermen need to bring in their own tools and pry the existing city motto off the wall. An “In God We Trust” plaque underneath “Ballwin: Bringing People Together” — is an unscrupulous lie. “We” implies all, and “we” simply do not all trust in God. Some trust in completely different gods and goddesses altogether. Again, “From many: One.”

Since last I spoke here, a death threat has been made and many prayers have been given in my name, but I’ve also received surprising messages of support from citizens of Ballwin. On their behalf, please don’t speak for the many Ballwin citizens of nonbelief, or who pray to a non-Christian god. They wanted to be here tonight to speak out, but these citizens fear for their jobs, their families and their lives, with good reason. These are the people who live next door to you, all of you. They are your children’s teachers, your trusted physician, your firefighters, EMS, veterans and soldiers and, yes, local law enforcement. “We” are many. “We” are diverse.

Interestingly, I have received support from members of Holy Infant Church, who are also afraid to speak out. May you know them when their tithes begin to wither.

Let’s “patriotize” our community, but not with the use of empty, patronizing, religious slogans. If the city of Ballwin is truly interested in promoting patriotism, I propose creating a “Citizens for a Better Ballwin” community program to honor citizens for their good works. What embodies patriotism, the desire to improve your community, more than the giving of yourself to that community? Isn’t that what being a patriot is all about? Religion does not a patriot make. I will forward this proposal to your respective emails later for your review and consideration.

I would also strongly encourage the city to host an annual “Cultural Days” festival to encourage awareness of the diversity that exists in Ballwin, which is currently being summarily ignored.

I ask you, where was Ballwin’s sense of community when, in 2012, my 18-year-old neighbor, Matthew Pelligrini, was brutally murdered in Clifton Heights? Why didn’t the Ballwin Christian community or KoC come out in support of a murdered boy and his grieving Christian family who’ve lived here since 2002? Where were the city officials? Ballwin, we really need to work on “Bringing People Together,” and a silly plaque is not going to accomplish this feat.

Know that I support the right of Ballwin citizens to display religious decorative items on their personal property, such as Lewis Greenberg’s Holocaust art display. The city was reported as spending in excess of $80,000 on attempting to stop Mr. Greenberg from exercising his First Amendment rights. I would further the argument that the allowance of an “In God We Trust” display in city buildings, while pursuing Mr. Greenberg, indicates the city’s desire to promote only a monotheistic Christian god.

Alderman Terbrock indicated to a Ballwin resident in an email that it didn’t matter that people from outside of Ballwin opposed the signs. I would caution him that, indeed, it does matter. These are the people who see Ballwin on top lists of great, safe places to live. This proposal and ensuing debate will tell potential business owners and residents that their taxpaying monies are not welcome here unless they subscribe to a Christian or Catholic supernatural deity.

It would be wise to remember that the Department of Justice is coming to St. Louis County to investigate the civil rights abuses after the travesty in Ferguson; so please keep our diversity in mind and choose not to abuse our First Amendment rights.

In closing, Thomas Paine once proudly proclaimed, “Independence is my happiness, the world is my country, and my religion is to do good.”

If I could state it any better myself, I would. Thank you all for your time and consideration.

Freedom From Religion Foundation