An atheist group that calls itself The Satanic Temple has threatened to sue Mississippi if it decides to add the national motto “In God We Trust” to its flag.
Recently, Republican Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves signed a law to change the state flag in order to remove the Confederate battle flag, which has long been on the banner.
According to the approved legislation, known as House Bill 1796, the new design for the state flag cannot include the Confederate banner, but it will require “In God We Trust.”
The Randazza Legal Group, which is representing the Satanic Temple, sent a letter to Mississippi Attorney General Lynn Fitch, protesting the decision.
“… removing one divisive symbol of exclusion only to replace it with a divisive phrase of exclusion does not eliminate exclusion,” claimed the letter.
“[W]e can imagine that there would be some Mississippians who would be a bit put off by the words ‘In Satan we Trust’ on the state flag.”
Temple spokesperson Lucien Greaves said in a statement released Tuesday that his group was “fully dedicated to preserving Religious Liberty, and that includes the rights of non-believers and believers of alternative faiths to live free of government coercion or sanction related to their personal religious opinions.”
“We cannot allow opportunistic politicians to insist on collapsing the wall of separation between Church and State as a consolation for the removal of Confederate iconography,” he stated. “They are not being given a choice of whom they can marginalize next.”
The statement “In God We Trust” became the official motto of the United States in 1956 when President Dwight Eisenhower signed a law that also put the motto on the currency.
In recent years, secularist groups have tried to have the phrase removed from public property and American currency, only to fail on multiple occasions in the court system.
In June of last year, the U.S. Supreme Court declined without comment to hear an appeal on one such legal challenge from atheist activist Michael Newdow.
Last July, a law in South Dakota took effect mandating the display of the motto at all public schools, in displays no smaller than 12 inches by 12 inches in size.
Wade Pogany, executive director of the Associated School Boards of South Dakota, told The Associated Press last year that schools have enacted the new law in various ways.
“Some have plaques. Other have it painted on the wall, maybe in a mural setting,” said Pogany. “[In one school] it was within their freedom wall. They added that to a patriotic theme.”