The Madison County Board of Supervisors in Virginia recently became caught in a divisive argument over the display of the national motto “In God We Trust” within the supervisors’ chambers.
480 counties and cities across America have voted to display the motto as of Jan. 28, according to County Administrator Ernie Hoch. Hoch pushed for the Board to join those localities in affirming the display of “In God We Trust.”
The motto has been present on U.S. currency since the 1860s and was officially adopted as the U.S. motto in 1956. Francis Scott Key, who wrote a version of the motto in a later verse of the Star-Spangled Banner, is credited as its creator.
This year, there was also a debate on "In God We Trust" in Klamath Falls, Ore. However, in this case, it was residents criticizing the motto's display in the commissioner's hearing room.
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“Choosing one faith over another by placing the proposed plaque in this room is not only unconstitutional, it is morally wrong,” said Trish Seiler, a member of the Klamath Falls City Council. “It is not the American way.”
In spite of numerous legal challenges from groups claiming that display of the motto by government agencies violates the separation of church and state, numerous government bodies, including Congress, have supported and reaffirmed the motto multiple times.
“It’s on our money and it’s in our Pledge of Allegiance,” Supervisor Jonathon Weakley said during the Madison Board meeting. “I have a belief — Jesus Christ is my savior. I hope you would follow Him, too, but I don’t want to impose that on you. I have no problem supporting this. It’s our national motto and has been around forever. I’m not supporting this as a divisive issue, but that’s where I stand.”
Several board members shared their strong ties to Christianity and willingness to express their religious values through displaying “In God We Trust” in their chambers.
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Board Chairwoman Doris Lackey spoke out decidedly against the resolution during the meeting, but it was one of her last statements that sparked outrage from several other board members.
“We’ve heard statements and treaties from other people not to go there and that there is such a thing as separation of church and state,” Lackey said. “I think we [ought] to consider other people besides the folks in this room.”
Supervisor Bill Campbell had earlier called Lackey’s suggestion not to pursue the resolution “a coward’s way out.” After her comment on separation of church and state, Campbell argued with her while several other Board members made statements against Lackey and even walked out.
Lackey moved on with the agenda, but there was a lack of consensus on the issue. “In God We Trust” may already be the national motto, but it continues to spark debate.
Image source: USCapitol / Flickr