Billboard Madness in North Carolina

Godless billboard?

EIGHTEEN months have passed since we wrote about a billboard battle: Darwin in Dayton — Oh Dear! That was about some group putting up “Praise Darwin” billboards in the home town of the Scopes trial. We were both amused and ambivalent, saying:

Your Curmudgeon is uncertain about such things. On the one hand, there’s freedom of expression. On the other hand, why not leave the people of Dayton alone? It’s obvious that they don’t want to know about evolution.

Well, we’ve found another billboard situation. This one isn’t specifically about evolution, but it’s interesting anyway. At the website of WECT News, an NBC affiliate, channel 6 in Wilmington, North Carolina we read Local businesses respond to “Godless Billboard”. Here are some excerpts, with bold added by us:

A billboard going up Tuesday on Carolina Beach Road near Sanders Road is causing some controversy. Drivers will be able to see what’s being called the “Godless Billboard.”

Six other billboards just like it are popping up across the state and will be there for four weeks.

Godless? Egad! Let’s read on:

The campaign is being organized by the North Carolina Secular Association, a coalition of “local secular, humanist, free thought and skeptical groups throughout North Carolina.” The project is costing them $15,000.

Everyone has a right to spend his own money in his own way. Wait, we found an issue we can get behind:

The group says they want to see an end to religious discrimination against non-religious people and groups in the Wilmington area. They also take issue with a religion being a prerequisite for becoming a public official in North Carolina according to the State Constitution.

We had to go hunting for that. It’s here: ARTICLE VI, Sec. 8. Disqualifications for office, and it says:

The following persons shall be disqualified for office:

First, any person who shall deny the being of Almighty God.

That’s not only insane, it’s void, because it’s clearly in conflict with Article Six of the US Constitution: “… no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.”

It would be an entirely admirable endeavor, in our humble opinion, to campaign for repeal of the theocratic clause in the state’s constitution. But that’s not the billboard issue. Instead:

They want “under god” taken out of the pledge of allegiance. The phrase was incorporated by Congress in 1954. Mike Werner is a board member of the Humanists and Free Thinkers of Cape Fear who is heading up the local effort for the billboard. Werner says the sign, which features the slogan, “One Nation, Indivisible,” is necessary.

That’s the picture we placed at the top of this post. We continue:

“The pledge of allegiance for decades did not have the phrase “under God” in there,” said Werner. “It is in fact discriminatory and it should be stopped. We should enfranchise all people, we are all Americans!”

The North Carolina state constitution is a worthy issue. So is science education. But this “under God” issue is a clue that Mr. Werner has his priorities — shall we say — a bit out of sequence. Here’s more:

Nearby businesses say they’re trying to grin and bear the future billboard, but they are worried it might deliver the wrong message.

Kristi Johnson is the officer manager of Island Appliance. She’s says she is in disbelief over the billboard. “Our country was founded on Godly Christian principals and I think its a shame,” she said.

If only some bright inventor could harness the power of stupid, we could be the energy capital of the world — maybe even the whole galaxy!

The article goes on a bit more with the customary “human interest” interviews and such. There’s also some contact information in case you want to donate money to the billboard campaign. Hey, go ahead. You can either give your money to this outfit or to a creationist con artist. Don’t bother trying to save it, because Obama will get it anyway.

Update: See Billboard Madness in North Carolina, Part 2.

Copyright © 2010. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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20 responses to “Billboard Madness in North Carolina

  1. I imagine that most people seeing the sign will think it is just another patriotic “support our troops” sort of thing. They won’t get the subtlety.

  2. Or maybe as an anti-state’s-rights sort of thing.

  3. If only some bright inventor could harness the power of stupid, we could be the energy capital of the world— maybe even the whole galaxy!.

    I don’t know if there is such an award, but I nominate this as Best Sentence of the Month award, which should automatically include it as eligible for Best Sentence of the Year award.

    Brilliant, SC. That’s why you are loved and respected far and wide.

  4. Having spent years working in central NC (thank the fsm I didn’t have to live there), I would guess that 20% of people who pass that sign can’t read it, 10% think it’s just a “Support Our Troops” banality, and the remaining 70% thought it said, “Invisible.”

  5. tildeb says:

    … I nominate this as Best Sentence of the Month award …

    Thanks, but it wasn’t that good.

  6. It would be an entirely admirable endeavor, in our humble opinion, to campaign for repeal of the theocratic clause in the state’s constitution

    Lots of states have voided laws on the books. While it’d be nice if they were cleaned up, I somewhat disagree with you that its a (higher) priority than changing the pledge. Neither is, for me. I think the NCSA would’ve been a lot smarter if they’d focused their campaign on educating people as to when and why the phrase was added, rather than simply campaigning to remove it.

  7. eric says:

    I think the NCSA would’ve been a lot smarter if they’d focused their campaign on educating people as to when and why the phrase was added, rather than simply campaigning to remove it.

    It’s interesting to reflect that adding God to the pledge hasn’t improved society. Why would they think that adding God to science class would have any better effect?

  8. retiredsciguy

    Kristi Johnson said, “Our country was founded on Godly Christian principals …”

    Presumably, they’re the headmasters of Christian schools.

  9. Good catch, retiredsciguy.

  10. Carolina Girl

    SY’s comment is brilliant and very open minded. I am dazzled by the intellectual thought process that went into typing those words. All of us toothless hicks in NC are privileged to have people like SY come into our state. Elitist snobs make us feel warm and fuzzy all over.

    Okay, now to address the billboard. I laughed when I read that the “intention” is to bring us together. The intention is to divide us and cause controversy.

    Yes, the law is stupid and outdated. Many states have old laws on the books that are not enforced. I don’t know anyone who would argue against getting rid of it, because the people I know in NC are quite knowledgeable about the constitution and history of our nation (shocking but true). The argument about the law is being used to divert the conversation.

    Let them keep their stupid billboards up. I’m all for freedom of speech.

    I just wish groups who do things like this could be honest about their intentions. Ha. That would take too much courage. It’s easier to pose and pretend to be doing something for the good of humanity. They’re not trying to bring anybody together. They’re trying to cause a fight.

  11. Relax, Carolina Girl. Lots of good people in NC. Even in central NC, where I have relatives.

  12. To be fair, most of the folks I worked with in NC had at least one tooth. And the extra toes were a bonus.

    I have NEVER seen so many Baptist churches of various flavors in my life, and I live in Texas. Mencken’s “Sahara of the Bozart” is a pretty fair description.

  13. SY says:

    To be fair, most of the folks I worked with in NC had at least one tooth. And the extra toes were a bonus.

    A friend made a business trip to West Virginia. When he came back he said: “There are a lot of nice girls in West Virginia, but they all have one eye … and it’s in the center of their forehead.”

  14. The West Virginia jokes I know (grew up next door in Maryland) are totally unrepeatable. And hilarious. I suppose Pennsylvanians had Maryland jokes…

  15. Gabriel Hanna

    That’s not only insane, it’s void, because it’s clearly in conflict with Article Six of the US Constitution: “… no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.”

    Of course, this means there is no religious test for FEDERAL office (see section 3, of Article IV, for a usage of “United States” in the same sense)–remember how many states had and enforced religious tests for office well into the 19th century. If that had been unconstitutional in 1789 I’m sure someone would have noticed.

  16. retiredsciguy

    Carolina Girl writes,
    “Yes, the law is stupid and outdated. Many states have old laws on the books that are not enforced. I don’t know anyone who would argue against getting rid of it, because the people I know in NC are quite knowledgeable about the constitution and history of our nation …”

    But this isn’t merely a law, it’s your state’s constitution. If no one would argue against getting rid of it, why is it still there?

    I assume all North Carolina officeholders must swear to uphold your state’s constitution when taking office. This in effect makes them all liars — unless they intend to enforce it.

    I, for one, would never disparage anyone for being a citizen of North Carolina (I live in Indiana, and thus have no room to speak).
    But since this is still a part of your constitution, it would seem that the good folks of Nawth Cahrolina want it there.

  17. TO SY: Priceless comment. ; )

    In terms of “under god” — I beg to differ. This is childhood indoctrination. If 20% of children are raised in agnostic or atheistic families, this is certainly not something mom and pop would want their children reciting over and over again.

    Since I view belief in “Yahweh” in particular quite dangerous (and the various versions of him) I would stand behind such a bill. Ditto for removing prayer from school, which I suppose is still an issue in some states. Heh…

  18. Gabriel Hanna

    @Trent:

    Your kids are not required to say the Pledge and have not been since (I think) the 1940’s, when Jehovah’s Witnesses sued for that.

    What I think you want is for your kids never to have to hear OTHER kids say the Pledge; and of course you have no Constitutional rights to shut people up who say things you don’t like.

  19. @ Gabriel Hanna:

    this is a simple equation:

    gods in churches. Science etc. In schools.

    And which GOD? What of the 12% Jewish kids who believe even writing the word “God” is a sin?

    You’re not thinking this through.

  20. retiredsciguy

    Gabriel Hanna :
    “Your kids are not required to say the Pledge and have not been since (I think) the 1940′s, when Jehovah’s Witnesses sued for that.”

    Legally, this is true. However, any kid who insists on exercising this legal right is forever labelled, not only by the other kids but by the teachers as well. Children want to fit in; not be labelled as a misfit.

    The larger issue, though, is what are the public schools doing promoting an establishment of religion? Trent’s correct — this is indoctrination. The whole point of having children reciting (and hearing) the Pledge of allegiance is indoctrination. When the phrase “under God” was inserted in 1954 (and I remember it well), it became religious indoctrination as well. And even if the child refuses to recite the Pledge, he is going to hear the teacher promoting a belief in God. Granted, the vast majority of Americans might think this is a good idea — but that doesn’t change the fact that the public schools are promoting religion by having the children recite the Pledge with the phrase “under God” in it.