New Iberia, the 10th largest city in Louisiana, made headlines after the city council approved to spend $2,000 of general fund money to build an aluminum plaque reading “In God We Trust” to be installed in the Iberia Parish Council chambers.
According to The Daily Iberian, this decision came just a week after Mike Fuselier, St. Martinville City councilman, led a presentation to the executive committee asking for the phrase to be placed somewhere in the council chambers.
Andy Kilchrist, a New Iberia resident and self-described humanist, spoke out against the decision.
“These words make me feel I do not belong here,” she told the parish council. “These words make me feel that I am discriminated against.”
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Kilchrist said a vote against the plaque ought not be considered a vote against God, but a vote in solidarity with the plethora of residents including Buddhists, Wiccans, Native Americans and atheists who reside in Iberia Parish.
“Our laws of the country were based on Judeo-Christian values back in the Continental Congress,” countered Councilman Bernard Broussard. “God has been a part of this nation.”
Maggie Daniels was the only member of the council to cast an opposing vote against the resolution.
"Well, honestly, I'm not going to support it. If they bring prayer back in school, then I will consider putting those words up. But until then I'm not going to support it," she said, citing her job as a secretary at the New Iberia Senior High School as a factor in her decision.
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“It’s not like I don’t believe in God,” she told Parish Council members. “All 13 (other) people at this table know what I went through.”
Some argue this decision ignores both the minority and a lawsuit from 1999 in which the American Civil Liberties Union successfully sued and won against New Iberia for religious discrimination.
"They were elected to serve everyone and they have an obligation to do that. And not to make anybody in their community feel like they are less equal, less welcome, or in any way uncomfortable when conducting government business," says Marjorie Esman, Executive Director of the Louisiana Chapter of ACLU.
"But I see nothing, nothing damn wrong with In God We Trust as American citizens," says New Iberia City Councilman Raymond Lewis.