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Secular Student Alliance at USA:Local Church/State Activism By Amanda Scott
The movement behind ‘In God We Trust’ • In 2002, Bakersfield Council member Jacquie Sullivan pushed the Council to display 'In God We Trust' in the council chambers at City Hall • In 2004, Sullivan started a non-profit organization under the name of In God We Trust – America, Inc. for the purpose of ‘spreading the mission of patriotism across America’ • Hundreds of cities have voted to display the motto since, and Mobile County is the largest county to do so
The push for ‘In God We Trust’ in Mobile • On June 10, 2014, Baldwin County resident Jon Butler and Mobile Tea Party politician Pete Riehm went before the Mobile City Council to propose a resolution to display ‘In God We Trust’ in Mobile Government Plaza • The council members informed them that the Mobile County Commission was responsible for altering the decorum in Mobile Government Plaza
The push back against ‘In God We Trust’ in Mobile • On June 19, 2014, I led testimony before the Mobile County Commission against the display • Speakers included the Atheist Alliance of America, Alabama Chapter of Americans United, the Mobile Atheist Community and the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Mobile • We outnumbered the speakers in favor 8 to 1, Pete Riehm was the only person who testified in favor • Unfortunately, the Commission voted 2-1 to approve the display
Enter… Dean Young • Dean Young, the candidate for the 1st congressional district of Alabama that lost to Representative Bradley Byrne, found out about our challenge • He started a group called In God We Trust Movement for a constitutional amendment allowing local governments to display ‘In God We Trust’ • He rallied 70 to 80 people, mostly from Gulf Shores and Baldwin County, to attend our upcoming meeting
The proposal for other mottoes • On August 7, 2014, I led testimony in favor of opening up Mobile Government Plaza as a public forum and allowing other groups to display their own mottoes • The Mobile Atheist Community proposed ‘In Reason We Trust,’ while the Black Hat Society of Mobile proposed ‘Blessed Be’ and the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Mobile proposed ‘Coexist’ • Unfortunately, the Commission unanimously opposed our proposal
The local backlash against me • After the testimony, I accepted an interview request from WKRG News 5 • WKRG News 5 asked their viewers “What do you think of the local woman who wants an athiest [sic] motto in Government Plaza?” • Viewers commented wishing death upon me and attacking my personal character and physical appearance
The support from the secular community • The Secular Student Alliance honored me with the Outstanding Activism Award • The Freedom From Religion Foundation endowed me with the $1,000 Catherine Fahringer Memorial Student Activist Award • Dogma Debate invited me onto their radio show • And I received hundreds of supportive messages of support from secular people all over the country
The future of local secular activism • I am rebuilding the Secular Coalition for Alabama by seeking secular activists willing to serve on the Executive Committee • I am organizing testimony before the Alabama state legislature against the ‘student prayer bill’ • I am planning on erecting an ‘atheists in foxholes’ monument at the Baldwin County Courthouse in Bay Minette
The secular movement needs you, too • You can join me by volunteering to serve on the Executive Committee for the Secular Coalition for Alabama • You will be called on to contact elected officials, write letters to the editor, and testify at public hearings • If you’re interested, e-mail me at email@example.com • Together we can rebuild the wall of separation!