In the latest from Tennessee's State capital cronies, a new bill was been introduced this spring that would have undercut the First Amendment freedoms of all Tennesseeans. TN House Bill 220, introduced by Representative John Mark Windle, aimed to permanently alter the state flag by adding the proclamation "In God We Trust" to its design.
Big deal, you say. Who cares whether the flag carries a Christian motto? What do a few words matter? Of course, these words don't matter at all, so long as you don't care much about your fundamental freedoms of thought, belief, assembly and expression. If you do care about your freedoms, however, the advance of this bill ought to scare you shitless.
If state governments are allowed to start endorsing particular religious points of view, where will it all stop? What's next, official state license plates that read "Jesus Saves"? How about banners in our state courtrooms that read "The Pope is the Earthly representative of God"? For that matter, if the Christians can put their motto on the flag, why can't other religions do the same? Those Christians who feel all rosy at the idea of the state government's promotion of their particular religion should consider how they would react if the state flag read "In The Buddha We Trust" or "In Satan We Trust".
Heck, it doesn't have to stop at religious boundaries -- why not just sell different parts of the Tennessee state flag to companies that want ad space? In order to raise tax revenue, our flag could be designed like a race car, with logos from Valvoline, McDonalds, Disney and General Motors? What's good for the Church is good for the CEO.
The point is that, as a symbol of our state's democratic form of government, the Tennessee state flag is supposed to represent ALL Tennesseeans, not just the Jesus-lovin' majority. There are thousands upon thousands upon thousands of Tennessee citizens who don't trust in the Christian God, including Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims, Jews, Pagans, Atheists and Agnostics, plus the huge number of people who just don't go to church and don't care about religion at all. Are these people to become second-class citizens, forced to contribute their tax money to further a religious belief they don't agree with? Are we supposed to stand idly by while our legislature converts our state capital into a church?
Hell, no. An online petition in opposition to this bill of blind faith was sponsored by Freethought at East Tennessee State University. Hordes of folks visited their web site to click in their dissent from the attempt to make religious faith a matter of law. We often feel that our political involvement as individuals doesn't make much difference, but in this case, it did!. Given the amount of resistance to the placement of a religious motto on the Tennessee state flag, the Tennessee legislature voted Representative Windle's bigoted Bill 220 down!
Plenty of disenchanted progressive activists will tell you that tradiditonal methods of action such as letter-writing, petitioning, and voting don't make much difference. The fact is that they're wrong, and the defeat of Bill 220 proves it. It wasn't bandana-masked anarchists marching in the street that defeated the bill, but average citizens who invested their energy in old-fashioned communication with their representatives. The message is this: when the goons on the Religious Right make their next attempt to undermine your Constitutional rights, don't just sit there hopelessly, as if you're already defeated. Speak up, and let your governmental representatives know that they'll be held accountable. Remind the Religious Right that our nation is not based on trust in God, but in trust that the American people will stand up for themselves to support each other in freedom.
Speakin' of which, there's a great opportunity to do so coming up soon. This July, join in The Day That Counts - an opportunity for Americans to stand together in support of the Separation of Church and State.
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