South Dakota Violates First Amendment
July 26, 2019 8:34 AM   Subscribe

Public school students in South Dakota will notice something different on their first day back to school — the national motto, "In God We Trust," prominently inscribed on walls in stencil or paint.

Anticipating lawsuits, the school boards' association was OK with the legislation as long as it provided legal protection."One of our concerns was that this would be contested. So we had asked the legislature to put a 'hold harmless' clause into the bill. The state would then defend the schools and pay the cost of the defense," Pogany said.
posted by Homo neanderthalensis (70 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
 
*cough* Gilead *cough*
posted by Secret Sparrow at 8:37 AM on July 26, 2019 [38 favorites]


Well this will fix everything.
posted by Cosine at 8:38 AM on July 26, 2019 [9 favorites]


And here is what happens in a culture of "whoever has the most power literally does not have to obey any laws at all; they don't even need to pretend". Might as well just break up the country now, since it's obvious that every state government is going to go its own way for good or for ill.
posted by Frowner at 8:39 AM on July 26, 2019 [44 favorites]


I know I'm always super inspired by poorly kerned words stenciled in black block letters on a wall.

I mean, seriously. That typography looks like the "NO DIVING" sign on the wall at a public pool.
posted by jacquilynne at 8:40 AM on July 26, 2019 [25 favorites]


*spraypaints dollar signs next to motto*
posted by pyramid termite at 8:40 AM on July 26, 2019 [18 favorites]


*spraypaints eye in pyramid above motto*

*writes "fnord fnord fnord fnord fnord" in tiny, barely visible letters all over the wall around the motto*
posted by Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon at 8:46 AM on July 26, 2019 [31 favorites]


...All others pay cash. No refunds.
posted by KHAAAN! at 8:55 AM on July 26, 2019 [19 favorites]


I salute the South Dakota teens who are going to be extending the boundaries of art as they find new and creative ways to vandalize these
posted by COBRA! at 9:00 AM on July 26, 2019 [75 favorites]


*spraypaints the Shahada below the motto". Bonus: Arabic calligraphy can be beautiful.
posted by Nelson at 9:03 AM on July 26, 2019 [10 favorites]


> I salute the South Dakota teens who are going to be extending the boundaries of art as they find new and creative ways to vandalize these

we should put up a gofundme for them. maybe even patreons for the most skilled and creative of them.

shit there's rich people on this site. could any of you please sponsor a full-ride scholarships to like nyu or risd for talented young graffiti artists from south dakota.
posted by Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon at 9:04 AM on July 26, 2019 [23 favorites]


call it the praxis, motherfuckers! scholarship.
posted by Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon at 9:05 AM on July 26, 2019 [21 favorites]


KHAAAN is quoting the immortal philosopher (and Christmas Movie inspirer) Jean Shepard, but I prefer what US Naval Intelligence added to the motto long before it became practical: "All Others We Monitor".

Of course, whomever declared that our "national motto" either violated or simply neutralized the First Amendment long ago.
posted by oneswellfoop at 9:06 AM on July 26, 2019 [7 favorites]


If you were secure in your worldview, you wouldn’t have to paste slogans based on it all over the walls around you. This is a sign of insecurity masked as power. We need to push the insecurity. The fundamentalists know they are a minority. They know they are loosing numbers of people. They know their message isn’t selling like it once was. Crudely writing their message on the walls of public schools is an act of desperation. Substitute the word “republican” for the word “fundamentalist” above and we now have the source of power to enact these desperate acts. The republicans know the same things about themselves. And they are using the fundamentalists to help carry out their plans. It’s all a house of cards, but we have to find out which card to pull to topple it down. So far we just seem to argue amongst ourselves.
posted by njohnson23 at 9:07 AM on July 26, 2019 [42 favorites]


...or you could simply alter the D in GOD to a P.
posted by oneswellfoop at 9:10 AM on July 26, 2019 [13 favorites]


> Of course, whomever declared that our "national motto" either violated or simply neutralized the First Amendment long ago.
The pledge had only just been made official by Congress in 1945, when eight years later Senator Homer Ferguson of Michigan proposed adding “under God.” Representative Louis C. Rabaut of Michigan introduced the same resolution in the House of Representatives. By 1954, the same year that Senator Joseph McCarthy held his hearings, it was official: the pledge was amended to include the words “one nation, under God.”
generally when i list off the cavalcade of monsters who've been one after another damaging america's governmental and social institutions i start it off with nixon. my standard lament goes something like "we got through nixon but the damage done by nixon made us weaker when reagan hit, but we got through reagan, but the damage done by reagan made us weaker when bush jr. hit, but we got through bush jr., but the damage done by bush jr. made us weaker when trump hit and if we survive trump his damage will leave us more susceptible to attack by the next monster."

but really the first name of that list should be mccarthy.
posted by Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon at 9:18 AM on July 26, 2019 [28 favorites]


That doesn't have anything to do with "In God We Trust", which is different from the Pledge. The motto is due to Lincoln.
posted by Harvey Kilobit at 9:24 AM on July 26, 2019 [5 favorites]


Can't wait until TST figures out how to force the schools to add "Hail Satan" to these walls.
posted by tobascodagama at 9:26 AM on July 26, 2019 [50 favorites]


Sad that my home (birth) state government implemented this, Glad that the current students at my HS alma mater see the problem
Earlier this summer, a group of students from Stevens High School in Rapid City approached the school board and suggested alternating God with Buddha, Yahweh and Allah on the signs — along with other terms such as "Science" or simply, "Ourselves" — in an effort to be more inclusive.

"I think that's a really foundational element of American society, is that we are a cultural melting pot and it is really important that we make all people who come to America to feel welcome and to be more in accordance with the First Amendment since we all have the freedom of religion," Stevens High student Abigail Ryan told KOTA-TV.
posted by achrise at 9:26 AM on July 26, 2019 [21 favorites]


> That doesn't have anything to do with "In God We Trust", which is different from the Pledge. The motto is due to Lincoln.

whoops. was on autopilot there...
posted by Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon at 9:27 AM on July 26, 2019 [2 favorites]


Teenaged me, who made enemies of some of my teachers* and got sent to detention for causing shit about enforced Christianity, is jealous of the opportunities that these kids have just been handed.

(While simultaneously feeling sorry for them, for being there in the first place.)

*oddly not the civics teacher, he seemed to get it
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 9:28 AM on July 26, 2019 [9 favorites]


I salute the South Dakota teens who are going to be extending the boundaries of art as they find new and creative ways to vandalize these

(in a public school, it doesn't matter if you believe) IN GOD(,) WE TRUST (that you agree)
posted by 23skidoo at 9:28 AM on July 26, 2019 [3 favorites]


IN GOD WE TRUST

NO SKATEBOARDING

posted by Slarty Bartfast at 9:29 AM on July 26, 2019 [28 favorites]


"IN GOD WE TRUST"
--xXx420WeedHitler69xXx
posted by tobascodagama at 9:36 AM on July 26, 2019 [15 favorites]


INGO D. WET-RUST, ESQ.
posted by chavenet at 9:39 AM on July 26, 2019 [14 favorites]


Paging the Church of Satan. I'd like the pantheon of world religions stenciled on the school walls. In for a penny, in for a pound.
posted by msbutah at 9:40 AM on July 26, 2019 [12 favorites]


The God of Nature invoked in the preamble of the declaration of independence creates the boundless geometry for the new world order , what we have now is a failure of philosophy and imagination ...
I blame Baptists and Francis Scott Key ,
third verse
Oh, thus be it ever, when free men shall stand
Between their loved homes and the war's desolation!
Blest with vict'ry and peace, may the heav'n-rescued land
Praise the Pow'r that hath made and preserved us a nation!
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: "In God is our trust!"
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!
posted by hortense at 9:45 AM on July 26, 2019 [2 favorites]


I was sent to a fundie Christian school for much of my childhood. I can tell you from experience that mixing Christianity with the often nonsensical rules of school, and with the often clueless (or worse) administrators, is a recipe for creating passionate non-believers.

I wish the motto wasn’t on those walls, but at least the end effect will be good. Will further accelerate the decline of mainstream religion in the young.
posted by Teegeeack AV Club Secretary at 9:45 AM on July 26, 2019 [12 favorites]


Just doin' my part
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 10:05 AM on July 26, 2019 [46 favorites]


And here is what happens in a culture of "whoever has the most power literally does not have to obey any laws at all; they don't even need to pretend".

That really is the gaping loophole in the Constitution, isn’t it? There’s no true, independent enforcement mechanism. So long as two branches of government are in lockstep, there isn’t much the third branch can do. Even the Justice dept. is powerless so long as there are sycophants at the top doing the Executive’s bidding (as we are seeing now)

It almost seems like the thing was written in a naive sort of “Well, of course gentlemen will always act selflessly in the best interest of the nation.”
posted by Thorzdad at 10:15 AM on July 26, 2019 [16 favorites]


The text is suspiciously high up close to the ceiling. Like it would be hard to reach for some reason. Hmm...
posted by parm=serial at 10:20 AM on July 26, 2019 [4 favorites]


There’s no true, independent enforcement mechanism.

The gun nuts would tell you the Second Amendment is that enforcement mechanism. I think that's absolutely insane, I can't even contemplate revolution or civil war as a way to solve anything.
posted by Nelson at 10:24 AM on July 26, 2019 [3 favorites]


Stenciling the motto cost a total of $2,800 at Rapid City schools, spokeswoman Katy Urban told the Rapid City Journal

Or they could have paid for 1,300 school lunches at Oklahoma's $2.15 a lunch rate. I don't know, what would God do, a shitty stencil no one will read, or feed a bunch of poor / hungry kids for a few months?
posted by inflatablekiwi at 10:30 AM on July 26, 2019 [34 favorites]


maybe add a baphomet statue near the main entrance?
posted by j_curiouser at 10:43 AM on July 26, 2019 [5 favorites]


I mean South Dakota not Oklahoma above.
posted by inflatablekiwi at 10:43 AM on July 26, 2019 [1 favorite]


I do not condone or endorse this.
posted by fnord at 10:57 AM on July 26, 2019 [18 favorites]


That's weird. There's a big empty space right below inflatablekiwi's comment, where it looks like another comment should be.
posted by Faint of Butt at 11:00 AM on July 26, 2019 [20 favorites]


I'm a long way from my fundamentalist roots, so maybe I'm getting out of touch, but I'm really struggling to look at these black on white all caps "signs" and see them the way the people who put them in place see them. I'm familiar with the sorts of adornments you see in churches and schools and church-run schools. This is not that. This is some ugly dystopian bullshit. Who looks at this and says "Ah yes, this is my legacy as a good Christian, this is my earthly ministry, I managed to find a loophole that puts the word 'GOD' on the wall of a public school."

This is some extreme War on Christmas bullshit from people who genuinely think the only thing that can keep the Christian faith going is active coercion no matter what form it takes. No child is going to look at that wall and think "Oh, worm? God, huh? If everyone else trusts in Him I guess I will too." and immediately dedicate their life to Christ.

So, I realized I was looking at this all wrong. This doesn't have anything to do with anyone approaching the Good Christian ideal of my youth, what this really does is two things. One, if wastes the ACLU's time as well as the time of whatever poor US Attorneys have to defend it. Two, it gives Fox News and related reactionary forces more fodder when inevitably the ACLU wins and the word "GOD" gets very publicly painted out of the school (VERY SYMBOLIC DON'T YOU THINK). There's also the long-shot that these mottos get upheld and the foot pushes the Theocracy door open a tiny bit more.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 11:43 AM on July 26, 2019 [22 favorites]


Virtue signalling.


(said as a speaking in tongues Pentecostal)
posted by Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug at 11:48 AM on July 26, 2019 [11 favorites]


JUST LIKE OUR MONEY.

Backed up by shiny alloys originally from the ground.
posted by clavdivs at 11:51 AM on July 26, 2019 [4 favorites]


Stenciling the motto cost a total of $2,800 at Rapid City schools, spokeswoman Katy Urban told the Rapid City Journal

Or they could have paid for 1,300 school lunches at Oklahoma's $2.15 a lunch rate. I don't know, what would God do, a shitty stencil no one will read, or feed a bunch of poor / hungry kids for a few months?


Just wait until the lawsuits get spun up and the state gets to pay a few million dollars that could have gone towards literally anything else from heathcare for children to their beloved tax cuts to defend this absolutely valueless stunt.
posted by Copronymus at 12:52 PM on July 26, 2019 [13 favorites]


put a big S after the D and then do a fuckton of horrible arts of a big sweaty beardy dude in a ripped chiton with his dick out on a mountain waving a thunderbolt
posted by poffin boffin at 1:11 PM on July 26, 2019 [13 favorites]


what would God do

If we're talking about Jesus' dad, I'm not too sure. 30% of his commandments are about venerating him, so? Please forgive the pronouns
posted by achrise at 1:17 PM on July 26, 2019 [3 favorites]


"It will inspire patriotism," they said.

To which I respond: What the fuck is wrong with posting "UNITED WE STAND" instead?

Oh wait that wouldn't stir up controversy. We need our wedge issues, don't we. Assholes.
posted by caution live frogs at 2:07 PM on July 26, 2019 [7 favorites]


"xXx420WeedHitler69xXx"

I grew up in SD and that is pretty much how the kids roll.
posted by cybrcamper at 2:52 PM on July 26, 2019 [3 favorites]


The text is suspiciously high up close to the ceiling. Like it would be hard to reach for some reason. Hmm...

Add CH to the front and paint a caricature of Bruce Campbell underneath.
posted by delfin at 3:11 PM on July 26, 2019 [9 favorites]


I really like those kids and their suggestions.
posted by doctornemo at 4:22 PM on July 26, 2019 [3 favorites]


Back in the 1990s I served on a regional ACLU board somewhere in the deep South. I was fresh out of a humanities PhD program, and eager to explore deep legal subtleties.

My eagerness was misplaced. Nearly every single potential case brought before the group was simple, black and white law, open and shut case, straight up church and state violation. One high school paid a preacher to evangelize over lunch for a week. A school board used public funds to buy pro-Christianity posters for another school's lobby. Etc.
posted by doctornemo at 4:25 PM on July 26, 2019 [11 favorites]


It's interesting that the Western nation with the strictest constitutional firewall between church and state is also the one with the highest rates of religious observance. I wonder why that is.
posted by clawsoon at 4:36 PM on July 26, 2019 [3 favorites]


In God We Trust, Inc.
posted by TedW at 4:46 PM on July 26, 2019 [2 favorites]


So I went and read the actual law. Couple of thoughts (real lawyers and anyone who can interpret the law properly should probably look away now):

1. The law says the motto of the United States. But it doesn’t say the United States of America. I’d run with quotes from the canceled Showtime series United States of Tara. I’d go with this exchange from the pilot episode
Tara: Am I high?
Marshall: Maybe a little bit.
2. The law doesn’t specify the display needs to be in English. How is your Akkadian, Sanskrit, or Klingon?

3. The law doesn’t actually say when it needs to be completed by - only that beginning in the school year of 2019-2020 it will be displayed. Put a whole lot of ants on the wall with ink on their little feet. Say you are attempting to prove the existence of god by seeing if the ants will end up writing the sentence - god willing! Or make a lego robot that randomly draws letters and mumble something about machine learning or AI and how the STEM kids will never make state robowar finals this year if they can’t get this damn robot right.

4. The law does say it can be in the form of “student artwork”. Oh man - really? - give the assignment to the most hardened cynical kids in the school. Preferably while they are in detention. They will bend this in hilarious ways none of us can ever anticipate. Enjoy the show.

5. There doesn’t seem to be a penalty imposed in the law if the sign isn’t up Just put a sign up that says “Per law an exciting sign is coming soon! - we are waiting for-the gold plated leaf and diamonds for the real sign’s decorations to be appropriated. Check in soon!.” Bonus points if an animated “this sign under construction” is used.

6. Nothing says it can’t be written in poop or the blood of some roadkill you find on the way to work.

7. Nothing says it can’t be put in ironic quote marks. Maybe with a quote attribution to the jerkoffs up on capitol hill.
posted by inflatablekiwi at 4:54 PM on July 26, 2019 [8 favorites]


In general what you want for this sort of situation is a friendly Kemetic Pagan and the Hymn to Atum, in which Atum masturbates the world into being and ejaculates into his own mouth, and then you go and demand that if Christianity is going to be represented in schools, Kemetic Paganism has the same right ...

(PS, this is how my uncle, an AP Biology teacher, got his Southern district to back down about creationism. I was delighted to comb through my comparative religion textbooks until I found the creation myth most likely to upset fundagelicals.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 5:42 PM on July 26, 2019 [13 favorites]


I grew up in Sodak as a Good Kid who Did Not Get Into Trouble, but I would have had absolutely no ethical problem figuring out what cameras looked toward this stupid motto and disconnecting them and painting over this crap. And I know exactly what teachers I could have trusted to help me do it. Clint and Lloyd were the custodians back then and they could have been counted on to help me hide the evidence.

South Dakota's voters came SO CLOSE to electing Billie Sutton, a decent Democrat, in the last election, and then ended up with Kristi Noem, who is a waste of a lot of things.
posted by lauranesson at 6:09 PM on July 26, 2019 [2 favorites]


I'm half considering now going back to my hometown and enlisting help eradicating this First-Amendment-violation piece of nonsense.
posted by lauranesson at 6:10 PM on July 26, 2019 [4 favorites]


I would have had absolutely no ethical problem figuring out what cameras looked toward this stupid motto and disconnecting them and painting over this crap

Your schools have security cameras? On the interior? Is that... common?
posted by Secret Sparrow at 6:50 PM on July 26, 2019 [2 favorites]


Nah, no, that was not a thing I experienced when I was there, but that was in the late '90s. I expect they probably have them now.
posted by lauranesson at 7:09 PM on July 26, 2019 [2 favorites]


...or you could simply alter the D in GOD to a P.

Change it to a B. How much could it cost?
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 7:33 PM on July 26, 2019 [8 favorites]


Given the fires, the floods, the storms, the heat and cold waves, the earthquakes... I'm not sure our supposed trust is well-placed anymore.
posted by hippybear at 7:46 PM on July 26, 2019 [2 favorites]


"Stenciling the motto cost a total of about $2,800 in Rapid City schools, she said."

My jaw almost hit the desk. How the hell can it possible cost $2800. Spray paint is, what, $5 a can. I have gotten stencils at the dollar store. The person who's putting up that must be one hell of a good artist. I mean, the letters are strait and all....
posted by kathrynm at 8:15 PM on July 26, 2019 [3 favorites]


Your schools have security cameras? On the interior? Is that... common?

This is very common now in less-intensely-supervised spaces like hallways and cafeterias in larger urban middle and high schools in the US; the middle school I teach at has them (in general, teachers unions have kept them out of classrooms, including mine). It does come in handy when we have had problems with kids vandalizing bathrooms- they don’t reach inside but you can see who was headed in there- or parents getting out of control with our admin in the office or whatever.
posted by charmedimsure at 10:25 PM on July 26, 2019 [3 favorites]


That really is the gaping loophole in the Constitution, isn’t it? There’s no true, independent enforcement mechanism.

The Framers lived in a word where that independent enforcement mechanism was a duel to the death upon the Field of Honor.

Consider how different the world would be if Chuck Schumer had thrown down a glove to Mitch McConnell as soon as he tried to pull that Merrick Garland shit.
posted by mikelieman at 10:54 PM on July 26, 2019 [6 favorites]


My jaw almost hit the desk. How the hell can it possible cost $2800
Strong labor unions?
posted by Hal Mumkin at 10:02 AM on July 27, 2019 [1 favorite]


Couldn't we be in compliance just by taping a dollar bill up in the school somewhere?

Sure but where's a school gonna find a dollar?
posted by Cookiebastard at 10:11 AM on July 27, 2019 [2 favorites]


"Couldn't we be in compliance just by taping a dollar bill up in the school somewhere?

Sure but where's a school gonna find a dollar?"

They found 2800 of them to stencil some letters. This country has gone to hell in a handbasket. I almost typed going to. But clearly we're already there.
posted by kathrynm at 12:15 PM on July 27, 2019 [2 favorites]


No child is going to look at that wall and think "Oh, worm? God, huh? If everyone else trusts in Him I guess I will too." and immediately dedicate their life to Christ.

Conversion isn't the object. The object is to create/enforce a hostile environment for everyone who isn't a mainstream Christian.

My jaw almost hit the desk. How the hell can it possible cost $2800. Spray paint is, what, $5 a can. I have gotten stencils at the dollar store. The person who's putting up that must be one hell of a good artist. I mean, the letters are strait and all....

They had to commission the stencil ($200 material plus wages for hours of back and forth in committee approving the design) then pay someone to take the stencil, a ladder, drop cloth and the paint around to every school and paint the stencil. RCSD has 23 schools; at an optimistic (once you include travel time, meetings, breaks, and the general pain in ass working in a school is) 2 hours per that is an easy week - week and a half of time plus mileage. $2800 sounds just about right.

Couldn't we be in compliance just by taping a dollar bill up in the school somewhere?

The law requires letters 12" high.
posted by Mitheral at 3:53 PM on July 27, 2019 [2 favorites]


The law requires letters 12" high.

- Look... this is what I was asked to write. Twelve inches. Right here, it says twelve inches; I was given this napkin -
posted by Cardinal Fang at 4:37 AM on July 29, 2019 [2 favorites]


The Framers lived in a word where that independent enforcement mechanism was a duel to the death upon the Field of Honor.

This really overstates the role that duelling played in the early United States, I think.
posted by thelonius at 5:31 AM on July 29, 2019 [2 favorites]


The independent enforcement mechanism was meant to be an angry mob with guns. Quite a few tried it, especially early on (and most infamously in the mid-1800s...), but none of them had much success.
posted by tobascodagama at 6:52 AM on July 29, 2019


I dunno. What might have Hamilton achieved had he not accepted a duel?
posted by hippybear at 9:33 PM on July 29, 2019


The independent enforcement mechanism was meant to be an angry mob with guns. Quite a few tried it, especially early on (and most infamously in the mid-1800s...), but none of them had much success.

If that's a reference to 2nd Amendment militias, their only purpose was slave patrols.
posted by mikelieman at 4:17 AM on July 30, 2019


It was more a reference to things like the Whiskey Rebellion and any number of early anti-government uprisings in the early US, though the Civil War certainly counts as well. My point being four-fold:

1) Any "independent enforcement mechanism" can be used for evil as well as good.
2) You can't write it into your constitution because anything specified in your constitution is by definition not independent.
3) If the entire government decides to stop following their own rules, there is literally no way to make them care about the rules short of replacing the government.
4) Trying to replace the government usually doesn't work out well for anybody.
posted by tobascodagama at 7:01 AM on July 30, 2019


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