Roy Exum: A Lesson From Mobile

Monday, June 30, 2014 - by Roy Exum
Roy Exum
Roy Exum

Several weeks ago the Mobile (Ala.) County Commission, by a vote of 2-to-1, approved a plaque to be displayed in the city’s Government Plaza that will read “In God We Trust.” Since then, there has been a persistent roar throughout the state between people who approve the sign and those who do not.

What is interesting is that with the heated outcry so easy to predict, why on earth did the three county commissioners ever invite such a fight? Before the vote was taken, nine people stood to make comments about the plaque and eight begged the commissioners not to do it, one a minister who admitted “I speak to you as a religious person who opposes this. The First Amendment keeps religion out of government and, most importantly, government out of religion,” Rhett Ellis told the group.

Amanda Scott, who identified herself as an atheist, said she urged the politicians to reject the display because “It will only serve to divide Mobile on religion when we are already so divided on other issues.” Scott suggested they instead adapt the Latin phrase, “E Pluribus Unum,” which translates to “out of many, one” or “one of many” but her plea fell on deaf ears.

Chuck VonDerAhe, a former Catholic priest who is also an atheist, suggested “In Our Citizens We Trust” or “In The Constitution We Trust” but Jerry Carl, a commissioner who voted for the plaque, disagreed, explaining that the word “God” could be anything.

“How does the word God apply to your life?” he asked, explaining that god to some might be money, a bottle of whiskey even, and that it didn’t necessarily mean the Christian God. “All of these religions we have were created by men,” he said, telling those in attendance the phrase was historic and that he "couldn’t understand how it would make anyone uncomfortable.”

David Underhill shook his head, saying when his turn came that the word “God” means a great deal to Muslims, Buddhists and atheists in Mobile. Then he asked the commission to imagine substituting the word God with “Allah” or “Great Spirit” and to “Be instructed by that squirming sensation, which is how people who don’t believe in the Christian God feel when they hear the word.”

According to a lengthy story on the state newspaper wire Al.com, Mobile commissioner Merceria Ludgood said she understood the discomfort. “I cannot in good conscience support this gesture. I believe our role is a secular one. I believe Government Plaza is the people’s house. All should feel comfortable. On a personal note, I’ve always found it interesting the things people do in the name of God. For me, it’s in God I trust. You cannot legislate morality.”

That’s when Commission President Connie Hudson called for support to approve the plaque. “This is the national motto approved by the federal government.” Noting it is printed on our currency, she added, “It’s not meant to be disrespectful.”

Since then the comments on the newspaper’s pages and on social media sites have been exactly what those in the room expected. The pandemonium has included such quips as “If folks actually ‘Trust in God,’ there’s no need to put a plaque on the wall … any wall” and “In God we trust’ should stay! If you don’t like it move to another country and practice your religion. We shouldn’t have to omit things to make you happy. Just leave!”

“It’s hard to argue with the logic. I personally don’t think it matters to the true Father. According to His Son, He’s not big on all that public-display stuff.”

One read, “Religious fools can put up whatever propaganda they want – it won’t sway thinking people. Non-religious people will only laugh when they see the proclamation. Being an atheist, I have little use for the religious, but I have known a few religious folk who impressed me with their belief. By their way of living, they showed their religious beliefs. They did not have to proclaim it with a sign. It was obvious they believed.”

Another: “Look around Alabama and see how many people proclaim their Christianity and then look how the poor, the sickly, and the weak are treated.”

There was this: “This is ridiculous They well know that it will bring a lawsuit which will inevitably be lost. A complete waste of our time and our money.”

So why did the Mobile County Commissioners ever dare such a slippery slope? There is a marvelous lesson to be learned and let’s hope our leaders will use their time and efforts much more wisely.

royexum@aol.com



Send Your Opinions To Chattanoogan.com; Include Your Full Name, Address, Phone Number For Verification

We welcome your opinions at Chattanoogan.com. Email to  news@chattanoogan.com . We require your real first and last name and contact information. This includes your home address and phone number. We do not post the contact information, but need it for verification. There is no word limit, but if your article is too long you may lose your reader. Please focus more ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: The Saturday Funnies

I am constantly amazed by the many emails that I receive every day. Quite curiously, I get a heavier load than I would ever have thought because the big search engines on the Internet send my Chattanoogan.com stories far and wide. Even the local ones on the Chattanooga area bring comments and I am deeply flattered. I try to read them and lament I haven’t the time to respond the ... (click for more)

Mae Beavers Hits New UT President For Reinstating Campus Diversity Office

Republican gubernatorial candidate Senator Mae Beavers expressed disappointment that the Chancellor of the University of Tennessee-Knoxville, Beverly Davenport, has announced plans to reinstate the Campus Diversity Office and hire a new director of the LGBT Pride Center. She said in May 2016 HB 2248 became law, which defunded the University of Tennessee’s Office of Diversity ... (click for more)

Wilkins Found With 2 Stolen Vehicles After Homeowner Catches Him In Break-In

Authorities said Jesse Lee Wilkins was found with two stolen vehicles after a resident on Thursday caught him stealing items from his residence on Cave Lane. Wilkins, 29, of 2906 E. 43rd St., was charged with aggravated burglary and two counts of theft over $1,000. When deputies arrived on a burglary call, they found Wilkins and the resident standing in the driveway. He said ... (click for more)

Sellout Crowd Treated To Wild Finish As Lookouts Nip Blue Wahoos Saturday, 3-2

With 6,376 fans on hand and the home team behind 2-0 with their final at bat, Chattanooga took advantage of  Pensacola's relief pitcher, Geoff Broussard, to rally for three runs in a walk-off 3-2 win. Broussard was unable to get a single batter out. Dan Rohlfing was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded, giving the Chattanooga Lookouts the victory. Alex Perez scored the ... (click for more)

Cleveland High School Selects Joey Knox As Head Wrestling Coach

Cleveland High School has selected Joey Knox as the next head coach for the Blue Raider Wrestling program.  Coach Knox has been with the wrestling program as an assistant since 2013.  During his assistant coaching tenure, the team has secured six Team State Championships, including five individual State Champions and 20 State Medalists.    Cleveland High ... (click for more)