VANCOUVER, Wash. — One observer felt that he was “in the midst of answered prayer” when, in front of a hearings room overflowing with people, Clark County councilors several weeks ago voted 2 to 1 to display the national motto “In God We Trust” in that very room.
But others felt differently. According to The Columbian newspaper, not only were about half of the 80 people who testified opposed to the idea, one man stormed out of the room and shouted that the county panel’s discussion was excluding him.
The councilors’ decision came about two weeks after the panel had turned down the idea. At that time, after hours of testimony in front of dozens of people, the proposal failed when a motion favoring by Councilor Tom Mielke favoring the idea failed to get a second.
But at the Feb. 25 vote, Mielke and fellow Councilor David Madore voted in favor, while Jeanne Stewart cast the lone dissenting vote.
Mielke introduced the proposal after getting an e-mail from Bakersfield, Calif., City Councilor Jacquie Sullivan, who has been promoting the motto since 2004. The founder of In God We Trust – America, Inc.,a California nonprofit, Johnson also is behind a current debate over “In God We Trust” in Oregon’s Klamath County office.
Mielke said he didn’t believe displaying the motto in the hearing room would violate separations of church and state, nor establish or promote a specific religion. He said “God “ is a generic term and the motto can apply to anyone who believes in a higher power. Furthermore, he said, a focus on God is part of the nation’s history and the motto is a reminder the U.S. was formed on the principles of God.
The newspaper stated the Feb. 25 council meeting felt at times more like a church service, as weeks of debate culminated in nearly four hours of public comment. Dozens of supporters held signs that read “In God We Trust” and at times shouted “Amen,” “Praise Jesus” and “Hallelujah.”
But opponents raised signs reading “E Puribus Unum’ — “Out of many, one,” and “Stop divisive distractions.”
Keith Mathison, one of the supporters of the idea, said an energetic turnout among Christians made the difference.
“It felt like I was in the midst of answered prayer seeing such a turnout of people standing up for the Godly heritage of America,” Mathison said. He said he wanted to thank the county officials for “doing the right thing supporting the national motto because it expresses American history and the values our Founders wanted us to never forget.”
Madore noted that a number of private citizens and organizations have offered to help cover the cost of getting the motto posted. He specifically recommmended that people donate to the Vancouver ministry Friends of the Carpenter, which has shown an interest in building the sign.
Stewart last month indicated that the council has spent enough time on such issues, If she already felt that way after the Feb. 25 hearing, she likely felt even more so after a phone call she got from Seattle.
According to The Columbian, Stewart told the council March 6 that she had received that call from the Satanic Temple of Seattle, which wants its own spot on the wall of the council’s hearing room. She said a representative from the Satanists called her personal cell phone number, askingthat she help them created a suggested alternative motto.
Stewart said she would not respond to their request.
A Columbian reporter contacted Satanic Temple head Lilith Starr, who said her group is campaigning for a plaque reading “E pluribus unum” or “out of many, one,” surrounded by symbols from a variety of religions.
Starr told the newspaper that ideally, there would be nothing religious in the council chambers, but that the “E pluribus unum” plaque would at least be a compromise.