In the wake of Michael Newdow’s famous failed legal attempts to remove “In God We Trust” from the public square, local governments increasingly are moving to display the national motto to acknowledge government isn’t the ultimate source of the nation’s prosperity nor the solution to its problems.
More than 370 local governments in 15 states have voted to display the motto, according to an activist group.
Just last week, the Green County Commission in Missouri approved a plan to display “In God We Trust” in commission chambers in the county courthouse. While some citizens urged commissioners to reject the proposal because it did not “respect religious diversity,” presiding commissioner Jim Viebrock argued the commission couldn’t satisfy everyone; but everyone, regardless of religious belief, is welcome in the county chambers.
A few days earlier, officials in Mobile, Alabama, were asked by community members to display “In God We Trust” in council chambers.
Making the request was Gulf Shores resident Jon Butler, who said similar resolutions already have been approved in Gulf Shores, Orange Beach, Summerdale, Silverhill, Elberta, Robertsdale and Foley.
Councilman Fred Payne said he proposed the idea after getting an email newsletter from “In God We Trust America,” a group started by Jacquie Sullivan of the Bakersfield, California, City Council.
Sullivan explained she set up the organization in 2004 to spread “the mission of patriotism across America” shortly after she “led the Bakersfield City Council in their historic ‘Yes Vote’ to proudly and prominently display the national motto of the United States of America, ‘In God We Trust’ in the council chambers at city hall.”
Her group has posted online a number of stories. They include how Evans, Colorado, got the movement going in that state, how leaders in Camanche, Iowa, joined the movement, and how St. Peters, a St. Louis suburb, is taking part.
The organization has samples of resolutions to promote the motto, school board policies that can be adopted and even a proposal to add the motto to a display of historical documents.
The Mississippi legislature wrote: “The governing authorities of every political subdivision in the state are authorized, in their discretion, to display the Ten Commandments and our national motto, of ‘In God We Trust,’ and the Beatitudes as stated in the Gospel of Mathew on an appropriately framed background in any public building.”
Just weeks ago, Pennsylvania House members adopted a bill endorsing the posting of “In God We Trust.”
The First Amendment Center has followed the conflict over “In God We Trust” since the case brought by Newdow to remove the motto from U.S. currency.
The slogan first was put on U.S. coins in 1864 and on paper currency in 1957.
The federal government says the motto was placed on coins “largely because of the increased religious sentiment existing during the Civil War.”.
One request came from Rev. M. Watkinson of Ridleyville, Pennsylvania, who said he wanted “succeeding centuries” to know of America’s Christian faith.
Treasury Secretary Salmon P. Chase then instructed U.S. Mint officials to “cause a device to be prepared without unnecessary delay with a motto expressing in the fewest and tersest words possible this national recognition.”
“The trust of our people in God should be declared on our national coins,” he said.
It was been in use since then, with occasional lapses that Congress quickly ordered corrected. When the new $621 million Capitol Visitor Center was being opened in Washington a few years ago, members of Congress noticed the motto was absent and ordered it installed immediate. The House vote was 410-8.
Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., threatened to hold up the center’s opening, saying that its displays failed to honor the country’s religious heritage and conveyed the message that the answer to society’s problems is government.
There also have been proposals to put the slogan on customized automobile license plates.
A sheriff in Louisiana has announced a July 4 celebration called “In God We Trust,” describing it as a public prayer event and holiday celebration.
“Not only am I elected to serve the people of Bossier Parish, but I live here and my family lives here. I think Bossier Parish is a better place with Christianity and Christian values involved in it,” Sheriff Julian Whittington told the Shreveport Times. “I am an elected official. I’m also a citizen here. I think this is what’s best for us. I don’t work for anybody in Washington. What they do, what they say, I couldn’t really care less.”