The Freedom From Religion Foundation is placing eye-catching billboards in South Dakota’s largest cities to protest a new state law requiring “In God We Trust” in public schools.
One billboard is going up for a month on West 41st Street in Sioux Falls and the other at Baken Park in Rapid City. The Sioux Falls billboard message will move to a new location the week of Sept. 23, to 41st Street, 1200 feet west of Cliff. And FFRF will place the message up on a billboard in Pierre, the state capital, that same week on Highways 14 and 83.
The billboard message features an irreverent cartoon showing the presidents immortalized on Mount Rushmore skeptically proclaiming “There goes the neighborhood” as the motto “In God We Trust” is carved into the mountainside. The cartoon was penned for FFRF by Steve Benson, a Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial cartoonist who formerly worked for the Arizona Republic.
“There has been such concern expressed by our South Dakota members and from Americans across the country over this misguided law,” comments Annie Laurie Gaylor, FFRF co-president. Gaylor notes that “In God We Trust” is an outdated and mischief-making motto that was adopted at the height of the Cold War. She calls it divisive, saying it fosters the false perception that piety is somehow equated with patriotism. That perception has bred discriminatory attitudes toward nonbelievers, who are consequently at the bottom of the totem pole when it comes to social acceptance.
Yet many prominent U.S. Founders were Deists and promoters of the Enlightenment. Our nation’s original motto, E Pluribus Unum [out of many, come one], chosen by the distinguished committee of Jefferson, Adams and Franklin, fosters the concept of unity. “In God We Trust” is a completely inappropriate motto for our nation, given the fact that the U.S. Constitution is itself godless, and the document’s only references to religion are exclusionary, such as barring any religious test for public office.
“We hate to see a captive audience of public schoolchildren targeted by the Religious Right and the Christian Nationalists who are behind this legislation,” adds Gaylor. Project Blitz, a legislative assault to flood state legislatures with bills promoting hard-line Christian Nationalist views, is behind South Dakota’s new “In God We Trust” law and many other “model bills” intended to entangle religion and government. Project Blitz is the brainchild of the Congressional Prayer Caucus Foundation.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a leading state/church watchdog whose 30,000-plus members (which includes members in South Dakota) are largely nonreligious.