As we head into the long weekend in celebration of the birth of our country, it’s a good time to remember how lucky we are that our Constitution guarantees us so many rights and freedoms.
One of these freedoms, of course, is the option to choose what faith to believe in, or to believe in nothing at all. Our Constitution protects and welcomes everyone, whether you are Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist, Hindu or an atheist.
That’s what the Forsyth County (N.C.) Chapter of Americans United and the Forsyth Area Critical Thinks were trying to get across by sponsoring a billboard in six cities across North Carolina that displays an American flag in the background and the words “One Nation Indivisible.” (That was how the Pledge of Allegiance read until 1954, when President Dwight Eisenhower signed legislation adding the words “under God.”)
These billboards, which can be found in Asheville, Charlotte, Greensboro, Raleigh, Wilmington and Winston-Salem, are part of the July Fourth project of the North Carolina Secular Association, a coalition of groups across the state, including the local chapter of AU.
The coalition bought the billboards for four weeks as a way to show that support for our rights and liberties found among a wide range of Americans – believers and non-believers alike.
Unfortunately, not everyone wants this to be up for discussion. This week, the Charlotte billboard, which coincidentally is located on the Billy Graham Parkway, was vandalized when someone spray painted the words, “Under God,” on the ad.
It seems some people just can’t grasp that it’s not mandatory to believe in God to be an American.
“It was done by one or two people off on their own who decided their only recourse was vandalism rather than having a conversation,” said Charlotte Atheists & Agnostics spokesperson William Warren. “It does show how needed our message is. As atheists, we want to let people know we exist and that there’s a community here.”
The defaced message will have to stay up until after July 4 because that’s the soonest it can be cleaned up.
It’s disappointing that this happened just before the July 4th holiday – a time when Americans should be celebrating how far our country has come, thanks to the vision of our Founding Fathers.
Faith or no faith, we are all Americans, and we are all protected under the same Constitution. There’s nothing unpatriotic about that.
P.S. “The Wall of Separation” will be on hiatus on Monday, July 5. Happy 4th of July!