MOBILE, Ala. — County commissioners in Alabama have rejected requests from atheists, pagans and Unitarian Universalists to post their own displays in the public arena after they took issue with a recent vote to display a “In God We Trust” plaque in the Government Plaza.
In June, the Mobile County Commission voted 2-1 to display the national motto in the plaza in spite of opposition from several area residents who had come to the meeting to speak against the proposal.
“I strongly urge the commission to reject the display ‘In God We Trust,” Faulkner State student and atheist Amanda Scott told the panel. “It would only serve to divide Mobile on religion when we’re already so divided on other issues.”
Chuck VonDerAhe, the president of the Atheist Alliance of America and former Catholic priest, requested that the motto instead be “In Our Citizens We Trust” or “In Our Constitution We Trust,” as he felt that “In God We Trust” is a promotion of Christianity.
But Commissioner Jerry Carl disagreed, stating that God is whoever you want Him to be.
“Your God could be anything,” he said. “How does the word ‘God’ apply to your life?”
As previously reported, council members in Tacoma, Washington presented similar reasoning in likewise voting to display the motto in the council chambers.
“‘In God We Trust’ is universal,” stated Jim McCune (R-Graham), a professing Christian. “It doesn’t have ‘In Muhammad We Trust.’ It doesn’t have ‘In Jesus We Trust.’”
“It doesn’t matter if it’s a Christian God, a Hindu god, a Muslim god, science, mother earth,” added Chairman Dan Roach (R-Bonney Lake). “God is what you want God to be. I think it’s all-inclusive.”
After the vote was taken in Mobile in June, Carl was joined by Commission President Connie Hudson, who agreed on historical grounds. Commissioner Merceria Ludgood dissented, opining that the government’s role is secular in nature.
In the days following the vote, atheists, pagans and Universalists all proposed their own privately-funded plaques on government property. “In Reason We Trust,” “In Goddess We Trust” and “Coexist” were all presented to the Commission, according to AL.com.
A hearing was held on Thursday surrounding the matter, where some area residents spoke out against the proposals.
“This is not a Muslim nation, this is a Christian nation,” declared Dean Young, a 2012 congressional candidate. “Our national motto is the national motto and we shouldn’t put random statements by random groups on the wall.”
At the end of the hearing, the Commission rejected the atheist, pagan and Universalist requests, stating that the panel would not consider any other mottos at the present time. It directed those in opposition to take up their concerns with Congress, which passed the national motto in the first place.
“If any other motto is added, that would give credence,” said Commission President Connie Hudson. “Until then, the Commission will not deal with any other plaques.”
The national motto was signed into law in 1956 by then-President Dwight Eisenhower. However, 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!”