Next door neighbor Kings County posts “In God We Trust” in Supervisor’s Chamber
‘In God We Trust’ wins OK in Kings Co.
– The Fresno Bee – Saturday, Sep. 01, 2012 | 11:53 PM
A movement to put “In God We Trust” on the wall of every city council and board of supervisors meeting place in America has gained traction in the South Valley.
Last week, the Kings County Board of Supervisors voted 5-0 to put the motto above the dais. The Hanford City Council voted unanimously last month to make a place available. Lemoore, Tulare and Porterville already have it in their council chambers.
In 2002, Bakersfield became the first city in recent memory to approve the motto, and Kern County is the only county to have the phrase at the board of supervisors and every city council. Nationally, 298 cities and counties have voted yes, according to In God We Trust — America, a nonprofit that sends letters to local governments urging adoption.
Jacquie Sullivan, a Bakersfield City Council member, is the brainchild of the movement.
“Our rights do come from God,” Sullivan said. Congress declared it the national motto in 1956, she said.
The most common argument against it is that the “establishment” clause of the First Amendment bans the government from getting involved in religion, she said.
“It’s a misconception. I’m not a scholar, but it was referring to not having a state church,” Sullivan said. “This is a free-speech issue.”
In Kings County, Iraq War veteran Richard Leach, 29, spoke against the motto proposal at the board of supervisors meeting.
“Government should be a neutral zone for people who are believers and those who are not,” Leach said. “It alienates a certain portion of the population.”
Supervisor Doug Verboon said he believes the motto will give the board guidance in making difficult decisions.
“It’s on every single dollar bill we spend,” Verboon said.
Supervisor Richard Valle said every board meeting starts with a public prayer that gives him strength, and the motto will do the same.
Supervisors said they’ll dig into their own pockets to pay the estimated $450 installation.
“In God We Trust” and “One Nation Under God” are called “ceremonial deism,” said Fresno State philosophy professor Andrew Fiala.
“It’s sort of the default religious culture of the nation.” But atheists would say it leaves them out, he said.
Culturally, “it’s a symbol of the larger divide between Americans who want to maintain religiosity and others who don’t want religion in their day-to-day existence,” said David Schecter, a Fresno State political science professor. A politician in a conservative area who voted “no” probably would endure “wrath” from believers, he said. An opponent could sue, but it would be difficult to convince a judge that someone has truly been harmed, Schecter said.
Sullivan said she at first expected that “In God We Trust” would be challenged in court, but so far no lawsuit has targeted a city or county.
Cities frequently ignore her letters urging adoption, Sullivan said, but if the motto gets on the agenda it almost always passes.