Democracy Has Prevailed.

September 7, 2014

What Do You Mean "We"? Who Is the "We" Here?

I've been meaning to write about this story for some time.  In case you missed them, here are the details:
Allegheny County Council will get its turn to decide if its quarters in the County Courthouse should display the words “In God We Trust.”

At a Committee on Government Reform meeting Thursday night, the group decided 5-1 to present council at its Sept. 9 meeting with an amended resolution that would display that motto, among others, on a plaque in the Gold Room, located on the fourth floor of the courthouse, 436 Grant St.
The other mottoes, as added by amendment, are:
  • E Pluribus Unum (Latin for "out of many, one".  This was the de facto motto of the United States before "In God We Trust" was enacted in 1956)
  • Virtue, Liberty and Independence (This is Pennsylvania's official motto)
The resolution can be found here.

The P-G, this morning, thinks this resolution is a bad idea:
To be sure, “In God We Trust” has been the nation’s motto since 1956 and there’s no suggestion that it be stricken from the currency or otherwise banished. But to introduce it now in an age much more pluralistic is to invite discord.

Americans understand well enough that while “In God We Trust” seems inclusive of other monotheistic religions, its wellspring is the politically charged notion that this is a “Christian nation.”

And the offense to those who will object is not mitigated by hiding the religious message among the clutter of other slogans. Sometimes the best slogan is “Leave well enough alone.”
The FFRF has entered the story:
The Allegheny County Council in Pittsburgh, Pa., will vote on Sept. 9 on whether to post a plaque declaring “In God We Trust” in the Gold Room of the County Courthouse.

This proposal is the brainchild of State Rep. Rick Saccone, who wants the motto to appear in public buildings, including schools, throughout the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. FFRF filed a previous suit challenging Saccone when he declared to the Pennsylvania House that 2012 was “The Year of the Bible.”

The proposal is sponsored by Councilwoman Sue Means, who insists that the motto is “patriotic,” thereby inappropriately suggesting a religious litmus test for good citizenship.
Ah, Rick Saccone.  Remember him?  He wanted to pass a law stating that 2012 was, for Pennsylvania, The Year Of The Bible.  He also thinks waterboarding's a grand idea.

So now we know with what we are dealing.

All that being said, my question here is, "Who are they referencing in the motto 'In God We Trust' - for whom, exactly, does the motto speak?
  • All the citizens of Allegheny County?
  • Allegheny County Council?
  • The individual members of the council who sponsored the resolution?
Let's take it one at a time.  In a recent report out of Trinity College in Hartford, CT states:
One of the most widely noted findings from the American Religious Identification Survey (ARIS 2008), which was released in March 2009, was the substantial increase in the No Religion segment of the U.S. population, whom we designate as “Nones.” The Nones increased from 8.1% of the U.S. adult population in 1990 to 15% in 2008 and from 14 to 34 million adults. Their numbers far exceed the combined total of all the non-Christian religious groups in the U.S.

Who exactly are the Nones? “None” is not a movement, but a label for a diverse group of people who do not identify with any of the myriad of religious options in the American religious marketplace – the irreligious, the unreligious, the anti-religious, and the anti-clerical. Some believe in God; some do not. Some may participate occasionally in religious rituals; others never will.

Nones are easily misunderstood. On the one hand, only a small minority are atheists. On the other hand, it is also not correct to describe them as “unchurched” or “unaffiliated” on the assumption that they are mainly theists and religious searchers who are temporarily between congregations. Yet another incorrect assumption is that large proportions of Nones are anti-rationalist proponents of New Age and supernatural ideas. As we will show, they are more likely to be rational skeptics.
So what are the numbers involved here?  The above says that report estimates that 15% of the population are "nones."  On page 11 of the report, it says that 42% of that 15% is either "atheist" "hard agnostic" or "soft agnostic" (defined as "there is no such thing [as God]", "there is no way to know [if there is a God]", or "I'm not sure [if there is a God]", respectively).  Page 19 of the report says that Pennsylvania is about in line with the percentage of "nones" in the state compared to the overall United States (15%).  If we can extrapolate, that means that there's a pretty good chance that a little more than 6.3% (42% of 15%) of Pennsylvanians do not hold the belief that there is a God (they either know there isn't or aren't sure there is).

If the population of Allegheny County is 1.23 million and the percentage of 6.3% of non-theists holds true, then about seventy-seven thousand Allegheny County citizens simply aren't represented in the "we" of "In God We Trust."  That's more than would fit into Heinz Field.  In fact it's about double the number of people who would fit in PNC Park.

So it can't be representative of ALL of Allegheny County, can it?  And yet it's to be nailed to the wall of the County's legislative body.

So is it just the council?  But then why attach it to the wall for all citizens to see?  For the non-theists of the county (and I count myself as one of them) would we be truly welcome as a full citizen in council chambers?

Remember the State Constitution says:
All men have a natural and indefeasible right to worship Almighty God according to the dictates of their own consciences; no man can of right be compelled to attend, erect or support any place of worship or to maintain any ministry against his consent; no human authority can, in any case whatever, control or interfere with the rights of conscience, and no preference shall ever be given by law to any religious establishments or modes of worship. [Emphasis added.]
Tell me again how declaring "In God We Trust" doesn't interfere with a non-believer's right to conscience?

UPDATE:From Sue, over at
Stop focusing on signage and instead focus on being people of good conscience who act according to their personal values – practice Christianity all you want, feed the hungry, heal the sick, answer your email, etc. But please stop imposing Christianity on your non-Christian constituents simply because they are a numerical minority. That is wrong.
Yes, it is.


Zeus0209 said...

It completely interferes with the non believers right to conscience, and is done so with precisely that intent. I'd imagine that earlier today Saccone prayed to his god to turn mine and the other 76,999 nones' souls residing in the county to drink the kool aid. I'm certain that he believes it one of his missions, in which he harbors great resolve, to "do gods work" - I have family that are cut from the same cloth. It's insulting, condescending, and worst of all in Saccone's case, an affront to liberty.

Ol' Froth said...

Has Saccone introduced ANY legislation that wasn't an attempt to shoehorn religion into government?

Social Justice NPC Anti-Paladin™ said...

Has anyone found the words "Separation of church and state" in the United States Constitution.

BTW the Senate is trying to get rid to the pesty "prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech" with the Repeal of First Amendment.
Shorter @MarkUdall: By abridging freedom of speech and to petition government for redress of grievances, we are "saving democracy."

Support the POBOR

Ol' Froth said...

There's nothing in the Constitution that prohibits me from owning a thermonuclear device either!

But because you're remarkably obtuse, Heir, I'll refer you to what's known as "The Establishment Clause:"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion You can read further if you like at the link, but here's what that means, when coupled with "The Free Exercise Clause:" The Establishment Clause is a limitation placed upon the United States Congress preventing it from passing legislation respecting an establishment of religion. The second prohibition inherent from this specified prohibition is no preference by the U.S. government of one religion over another; an aim desired by the Founding Fathers necessary to accommodate all of the many denominations in the United States. "Seperation of Church and State" is merely a more pithy way of stating the above.

Social Justice NPC Anti-Paladin™ said...

I don't claim owning a thermonuclear device is a Constitutional Right.

Of course, I could use the Shadows and Penumbra reasoning from Roe.

Zeus0209 said...

This issue doesn't need to even leave the state.

Pa Constitution, Article 1, Section 3:

"no preference shall ever be given by law to any...modes of worship". Trust in a god, faith in a god, belief in a god are all modes of worship.

One can't help but wonder what other sections Saccone find unbefitting.

Ol' Froth said...

Good gravy, even satiric denouncement of your position is lost on you. You seem to beleive that since the words "seperation of church and state" do not appear in the Constitution, then there is no inherent church/state seperation. Likewise, "nuclear weapons prohibited" doesn't appear in the Constitution either, therefore, citizens are entitled to own them.

Social Justice NPC Anti-Paladin™ said...

A little like Law Enforcements view of photography and videotaping.
Hey photography and videotaping is not in the Constitution so I can arrest anyone who films the Police.

Ol' Froth said...

And again, you completly miss the point. Your argument is that since the phrase "seperation of church and state" doesn't appear in the Constitution, then the founding fathers didn't intend for there to be a seperation. My point about nuclear weapons was meant to point out the absurdity of your your question. And then you bring up something totally unrelated, which interestingly makes my point, but you of course, are far to addleminded to make the connection.

Social Justice NPC Anti-Paladin™ said...

To quote Chuck Schumer ‘No Amendment is Absolute’

Unless it is progressive invoking the Constitutional right of Separation of church and state or abortion

Social Justice NPC Anti-Paladin™ said...

"If the population of Allegheny County is 1.23 million and the percentage of 6.3% of non-theists holds true, then about seventy-seven thousand Allegheny County citizens simply aren't represented in the "we" of "In God We Trust."

So Dayvoe is saying he speaks for all atheists in Allegheny County. As all theists in Allegheny County are against displaying 'In God We Trust' on plaque in the Courthouse/

Ol' Froth said...

And you are inverting the argument. If, as Schumer claims, no amendment is absolute (and I agree, you do not have the right to slander someone), your argument still makes no sense, since the speration of church and state does not prevent you from worshipping as you please.

Social Justice NPC Anti-Paladin™ said...

all Atheists in Allegheny County are against displaying 'In God We Trust' on plaque in the Courthouse

"you do not have the right to slander someone"

Except when a Democrat does it Frank Wuterich Murtha Defamation Suit Dies In Court

Ol' Froth said...

Again with the LOOK OVER HEEEER!!!!