About 100 police cars in Green County, Missouri, now have “In God We Trust,” the national motto, written on their bumpers.
A letter submitted to Springfield News-Leader’s “Answer Man” by Laura Entwisle wrote, “I recently saw a Greene County sheriff's deputy's car with letters on the bumper that say, ‘In God We Trust.’ I called the sheriff's office and was told that Sheriff Jim Arnott decided to do this.”
“If taxpayer money was used, is it legal? I'm asking because I am not of a faith that identifies with the name 'God' and I don't think I'm the only one.”
The answer is that it is probably legal, as the phrase currently serves as the national motto. Courts have ruled many times that the phrase does no constitute a government endorsement of religion and, therefore, does not violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution which separates church and state.
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Answer Man Steve Pokin confirmed through an interview that it was Sheriff Arnott behind the move. Arnott told the reporter: “I made the decision. I had been meaning to do it since taking office in 2009 and I just got around to it.”
Arnott said there’s no question that it’s legal. In reference to the motto’s placement on U.S. currency, he said, “I'm guessing she is offended by it. If that's the case, I'm hoping that she does not use any of our currency either.”
In a letter to the editor of Springfield News-Leader, Thomas Essel wrote, “Following that logic, I would like to pose a question to Sheriff Arnott: If I find the use of ‘In God We Trust’ on taxpayer-funded emergency vehicles offense — which I do — should I forgo the use of the sheriff's office in an emergency?”
“People ask me why I did it. The reason is because I like it.” Arnott told the Springfield News-Leader.
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The sheriff’s move has been criticized for being motivated by sectarian bias. Americans United for Separation of Church and State uncovered that Arnott’s public Facebook page displays a badge with a reference to Romans 13:4, which says, “For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.”
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