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



Remembering Mitch Beard On Memorial Day

A little over two years ago, my friend Mitchell "Mitch" Beard passed away from injuries he sustained in a motorcycle accident at 24 years old. This was not as it should be. Mitch had made it through war. He was a combat-decorated United States Marine who served in Afghanistan. I first met Mitch when I was a college student at Tennessee Temple in 2004. Mitch’s parents, Steve ... (click for more)

Trump's Messaging

I have been an ardent supporter of Trump since he first entered the race.  O'Reilly's special with him last evening, which I saw very early this morning, has turned me around and left me on empty.  Thanks to Bill, he finally was successful in goading Trump to explain what he plans to do specifically to put his expressed commitments to the people in place if he is elected. ... (click for more)

Large Hole Develops In Lane Of I-24 Eastbound Over Chestnut Street; Emergency Repair Undertaken

A large hole developed in the I-24 eastbound bridge over Chestnut Street in Chattanooga on Sunday evening. Jennifer Flynn of TDOT said, "The hole is such that we are having to close a lane to protect traffic.  This will cause a significant backup in traffic, especially given the holiday.  "This is the same bridge, but different location that we recently did an emergency ... (click for more)

12 Lost Hikers Rescued At Rainbow Lake, Edwards Point

Eleven adults and a child were briefly lost at Rainbow Lake and Edwards Point trails on Signal Mountain on Sunday. A 911 call was made at 9:45 p.m. from one of the hikers reporting the group lost sunlight hiking out of the trails at Edwards Point. Th Signal Mountain Fire Department and the Walden's Ridge Emergency Services have responded to the scene to ... (click for more)

Smokies' Hurlers Limit Lookouts To Four Hits Sunday In 5-1 Win

The Lookouts drew six walks, but only managed four hits in their 5-1 loss to the Tennessee Smokies Sunday in front of a crowd of 5,356 fans at AT&T Field.    Chattanooga's loss drops them to 22-28 through 50 games in the Southern League North Division. Tennessee starting pitcher Brad Markey was lights out early for the Smokies, carrying a no-hitter into ... (click for more)

Tennessee-Georgia All-Star Football Classic Set For Saturday at CCS

The 13th Annual Tennessee-Georgia All-Star Football Classic, presented by Great Clips, is scheduled for 7 p.m. Saturday June 4 at Chattanooga Christian School in Chattanooga. Tennessee defeated Georgia 38-14 last June at McCallie School in Chattanooga. It was Tennessee's fourth consecutive victory in the series that dates back to the first game held at Ridgeland High in ... (click for more)