Dispatches from the IGWT Comment Wars

The following is a guest post by Scott McKeller


The proponents of decals on police cars bring up the same arguments over and over.  It may be helpful to list some of the popular themes, together with brief rebuttals.  (Disclaimer: these rebuttals are not the official position of anyone but myself.)

The Internet, pretty much all the time


The core appeal appears in a myriad of variations:

We should acknowledge and honor our Creator.

However heartfelt, this sentiment is constitutionally inadmissible as a basis for public policy.  The fact that people make this argument so often demonstrates that Aronow v. United States (1970) was decided wrongly.  The motto DOES have theological and ritualistic impact, and it is dishonest to pretend otherwise.

It’s legal.

Yes, it is, in the sense that the courts would almost certainly permit it.  However the fact that it’s legal doesn’t mean that it’s a good idea.

It’s our National Motto, and it’s on the money.

It shouldn’t be, but that’s  a separate issue.  It’s not the Sheriff’s call. This rejoinder invariably leads to:

If you don’t like it on the money, then stop spending it.  Or send it to me, har har.

*eye roll*

If you don’t like it, don’t look at it.

This logic could be used to excuse absolutely anything that could fit on a patrol car, no matter how abhorrent.

It’s an exercise of religious freedom, and freedom of speech.

Freedom of religion and freedom of speech are for the people, not for the government.

It helps the deputies feel safer to know they’re under God’s protection.

Reliance on a magic talisman may make the deputies less safe, by encouraging them to take needless risks.  In any case, if the motto is for the benefit of the deputies, why place it where they can’t see it?

This is a Christian nation.

This assertion can be rebutted, but not briefly.  Here I’m going to punt.

Most people here are Christians.

Doesn’t matter.  Religion is not subject to a majority vote.

You don’t even live in our county.  Mind your own business.

The is everybody’s business.

The Constitution doesn’t say anything about the separation of church and state.

Sure it does.  Just not in those specific words.

The motto doesn’t endorse any religion.  The “God” is generic.

The motto favors monotheism over polytheism, and belief over unbelief.

Why should it bother you so much?  You’re just whiny.

Members of the privileged religious majority are not in a position to tell members of religious minorities how to feel.

The stickers are donated.  They don’t cost the taxpayers a dime.

It doesn’t matter what they cost.  Money is not the issue.

I want one for my pickup.

Go for it.

You atheists have no right to push your beliefs down our throats.

First, we aren’t all atheists.  Second, we’re not the ones pushing beliefs down throats.

If you don’t like it, then don’t call the police next time you need help.

So those who don’t belong to your religious tribe should not feel entitled to police protection?  Thank you for demonstrating the need to separate church and state.

I don’t see the problem.

Yeah, that’s part of the problem.


The other side is not immune to the use of bad arguments.  Here are a few I’ve seen:

It’s unconstitutional.

So far, the courts have said the opposite.

You’re inviting a lawsuit.

Empty threat.  As long as the decals are restricted to the National Motto, which has already been vetted by the courts, a lawsuit is not likely to go anywhere.  Bible verses are another story.

Your God doesn’t exist.

The actual existence or non-existence of God is not pertinent in this context, and bringing it up just invites pointless argument and rancor.  What matters is the demonstrable fact that not everyone agrees about His existence.

It’s a misuse of taxpayer dollars.

Decals are cheap, if not free.  Cost is not the objection.

So-and-so County is full of ignorant hicks and hillbillies.

This needless affront is irrelevant even if true.


Image: addicting info / http://www.addictinginfo.org/2012/07/25/addicted/business-people-yelling-at-each-other/

Thomas Essel

Thomas Essel is an outspoken secular activist and serves as Assistant Director for The Original Motto Project. Thomas also writes for the Patheos Atheist blog Danthropology and his work has appeared in the Springfield News-Leader. You can contact Thomas at: Thomas@originalmotto.us