Kieffe and Sons, a Ford dealership in Mojave, California thinks that I should sit down and shut up. They are running a radio ad that says:
Did you know that there are people in this country who want prayer out of schools, "Under God" out of the Pledge, and "In God We Trust" to be taken off our money? But did you know that 86% of Americans say they believe in God? Now, since we all know that 86 out of every 100 of us are Christians who believe in God, we at Kieffe & Sons Ford wonder why we don't just tell the other 14% to sit down and shut up. I guess maybe I just offended 14% of the people who are listening to this message. Well, if that is the case, then I say that's tough, this is America folks, it's called free speech. And none of us at Kieffe & Sons Ford are afraid to speak up. Kieffe & Sons Ford on Sierra Highway in Mojave and Rosamond: if we don't see you today, by the grace of God, we'll be here tomorrow.
Yes, I do know that there are people who want “under God” out of the Pledge. I want the government to quit telling people that it regards a peaceful law-abiding citizen who does not support “one nation under God” to be the unpatriotic equivalent of an American who does not support ‘liberty and justice for all’.
There are people who want “In God We Trust” taken off the money, because the government should not be handing out political leaflets that tell the people, “You are not to think of those who lack trust in God as being one of us.”
As for prayer in schools – I know of nobody who wants the government to ban prayer in schools. I have only heard objections to schools telling students when to pray, how to pray, and to whom to pray. Nobody I know would advocate punishing a student who whispers a prayer before a test or says grace before eating lunch.
But, it is customary for people like those responsible for this add to bear false witness against others. It is often easier to promote hostility towards others by lying about them than by telling the truth.
The reason why Kieffe & Sons think I should sit down and shut up is because 86% of the country are Christians. This leap between 86% believe in God to 86% are Christians is another example of lying for effect. Unless Kieffe & Sons have never heard of people who believe in one or more gods but who are not Christians.
Some people commenting on this advertisement have already pointed out the flaw in that reasoning. It is the same flaw that I used in the book Perspective on the Pledge. Assume that a nation was 86% white, and they voted to support a pledge of allegiance to “one white nation”. Would the fact that 86% are white imply that they are morally permitted to tell the 14% who are not white to ‘sit down and shut up’?
I want to draw another lesson out of this rebuttal. Please note that, in the counter-example above, a person does not have to be black to object to a Pledge of Allegiance to ‘one white nation’. A person can be white and still recognize that it is fundamentally unjust for the government to have children pledge allegiance to a white nation.
Similarly, even if 86% of the nation believes in a God, a person can still believe in God and know that it is fundamentally unjust for the government to teach children to be prejudiced against those who do not support ‘one nation under God’. Any attempt to portray this issue as being one in which only the 14% who do not believe in God can be in favor of removing ‘under God’ from the Pledge and ‘In God We Trust’ from the money is fundamentally dishonest.
A person only needs to consider whether the government has the right to tell people, “We do not want you to think of those who do not believe in Jesus as being one of us,” or “We do not want you to think of those who are Catholic as being one of us,” to see the moral problem with a government statement that, “We do not want you to think of those who do not trust in God as being one us.”
A person only needs to consider the immorality of a government that says, “Those who do not support one white nation are, in our eyes, as bad as those who do not support ‘liberty and justice for all’ to see the immorality in the government’s pledge to view people who do not support ‘one nation under God’ to be the same as those who do not support ‘liberty and justice or all’.
Certainly, there is no law of nature that prohibits a person from believing in God from also believing that these types of government claims are unjust and immoral. Kieffe & Sons has insulted a great many people who believe in God by claiming, in effect, that everybody who believes in God endorses the bigotry expressed in their advertisement.
Yet, this is only the third dishonesty found in this advertisement so far.
Though it does cause me to wonder whether it would be a good idea to buy a car from a group of people have proved in their advertisement that they are more than happy to bear false witness and make other dishonest statements and inferences when it pleases them to do so.
I also want to note the misplaced appeal to “free speech” in this advertisement (as well as in some responses to it). Free speech, as I have written in the past, is not a freedom from condemnation for what one says. It is a freedom from violanece. Unless and until people start talking about a violent action (including the violence of government prohibitions backed by people with guns), no violation of free speech has taken place.
In a free society, a car dealership has the right to produce an advertisement quoting from Mein Kampf if he believes it will help to sell cars. It is equally within the realm of free speech for others to condemn the advertisement.
Similarly, as a free country, Kieffe & Sons are free to produce their bigoted hate-mongering advertisement, and it would be wrong for anybody to respond to it with violence. Yet, it is not a violation of free speech to condemn the advertisement. In act, the right to freedom of speech includes the right to condemn other peoples’ bigotry. Not to react with violence, but to react by pointing out that no decent, moral, and just person would ever produce or support the injustice and bigotry that Kieffe & Sons ha endorsed in its advertisement.
Telling somebody that they should sit down and shut up (that no moral and just person would make those types of claims) is not the same as forcing them to sit down and shut up. It is only the latter that violates freedom of speech. Condemning bigoted speech is not the same as banning it.
Here, again, it may be useful to point out that there could be problems with buying a car from a dealership whose management has such difficulty telling the difference between right and wrong as those who run Kieffe & Sons.
Finally, I want to point out that the attitudes expressed in this advertisement (that so many atheists and secularists have gotten worked up about) are the same attitudes found in the national motto and the Pledge of Allegiance themselves.
When the national motto says, “You should not consider a person who lacks trust in God to be one of us,” it is easy to see how the owners of a car dealership might come to believe that it is permissible to tell their customers, “We do not consider a person who lacks trust in God to be worthy of our respect.”
When the Pledge of Allegiance equates those who do not support ‘one nation under God’ with those who do not support ‘liberty and justice for all’, it is not unreasonable to believe that they are teaching citizens to treat those who do not value ‘one nation under God’ the way they would treat those who do not value ‘liberty and justice for all’.
It is even interesting to note that, in the eyes of some, it is sufficient ‘protection’ against the charge of discrimination that atheists are not required to actually say the Pledge of Allegiance. What are atheists supposed to do while the rest of the class or the civic group stands and gives the pledge of allegiance?
According to the doctrine endorsed by many people (including many justices), the proper behavior for atheists during the Pledge of Allegiance itself is to sit down and shut up.
I am not inclined to follow this particular advice. As far as I can tell, there is little difference between the Kieffe & Sons advertisement, and a statement by a bus driver in Alabama saying, "Shut up and get to the back of the bus."