TACOMA, Wash. — Members of a county council in Washington State have voted to display the motto ‘In God We Trust’ in the council chambers following controversy over whether the motto was inclusive or exclusive in its meaning.
By a vote of 4-3, the Pierce County Council approved the resolution, making the council the first government entity to display the motto in the state.
But the matter had been the subject of debate since its introduction by sponsor Jim McCune (R-Graham). Some had asserted that the motto referred to the Christian God, and therefore alienated others who professed a different religion or no religion at all.
“It is not inclusive,” Sam Mulvey, the chairman of Humanists of Washington told the Tacoma News Tribune. “It would be a clear sign to me that Pierce County does not care about me and does not care about the people who think as I do.”
Councilmembers Rick Talbert and Connie Ladenburg (D-Tacoma) likewise opposed the measure, opining that God does not belong in the government.
But McCune, whose online bio includes the Scripture “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord” from Psalm 33:12, said that he did not view the motto as being problematic.
“‘In God We Trust’ is universal,” he said. “It doesn’t have ‘In Muhammad We Trust.’ It doesn’t have ‘In Jesus We Trust.’”
Council Chairman Dan Roach ( R-Bonney Lake) inferred that the saying did not necessarily have to refer to religion at all.
“It doesn’t matter if it’s a Christian God, a Hindu god, a Muslim god, science, mother earth,” he stated.“God is what you want God to be. I think it’s all-inclusive.”
As the vote was taken Tuesday, McCune and Roach were joined by Councilmembers Joyce McDonald and Doug Richardson—both Republicans—in approving the measure. Stan Flemming (R-Gig Harbor) joined Talbert and Ladenburg in the opposition.
The vote included a last minute proposal to add “E Pluribus Unum” (Out of many, one) to the display, which did not satisfy some opponents.
As previously reported, some cities have come under fire for utilizing the motto in recent years, but over 300 municipalities nationwide have decided to adopt it as their own due to the efforts of California politician Jacquie Sullivan. Prominent atheist Michael Newdow also recently sought have the phrase removed from American currency, asserting that it violates the Establishment Clause of the United States Constitution, but the courts disagreed.
“The [Supreme] Court has recognized in a number of its cases that the motto, and its inclusion in the design of U.S. currency, is a ‘reference to our religious heritage,’” wrote the Second Circuit Court of Appeals this past May. “We therefore hold, in line with the Supreme Court’s dicta, that [the motto appearing on currency does] not violate the Establishment Clause.”
The phrase “In God We Trust” is believed to have originated with the Star Spangled Banner, written during the War of 1812 — less than 40 years after the signing of the Constitution — which declares, “And this be our motto: In God We Trust!”