Greene County, Missouri, Sheriff Jim Arnott recently defended the “In God We Trust” decals that are on his department's squad cars. The decals made national news in July when Stone County started placing the religious stickers on cruisers (video below).
“Here’s how I feel about it," Arnott told the Springfield News-Leader. "It’s our nation’s motto. And that’s the bottom line. And it’s on all of our currency. It’s probably in 75 percent of the courthouses in the United States. It’s on our county seal."
Arnott is also the treasurer of the Missouri Sheriffs Association (MSA), which voted in August to put the “In God We Trust” decal on all squad cars in the state.
“In the times we’re in right now and how law enforcement is viewed negatively, we are looking for something positive,” Sheriff Rodney Herring of Grundy County, who is president of the MSA, told The Missouri Times last month.
“In some areas, it’s going to be well received, and in some areas, it won’t,” Herring added. “In rural areas people are more religious, and in urban places, there’s not a huge religious following in those areas … It is my opinion that there will probably be some opponents to make a proverbial mountain out of a molehill.”
However, Annie Laurie Gaylor, co-president of the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF), told the Springfield News-Leader that “In God We Trust” is “exclusionary," and added:
I’m just saying there is an injury to non-religious citizens by official government action that ties religion to the police or that ties piety to good citizenship.
From a personal point of view it sends a chilling message to non-believers.
“We treat everybody equal,” Arnott insisted. “And it doesn’t matter race, religion, sex, we’re going to do our job. That [a citizen’s religious beliefs] doesn’t even factor into any decision I would make or that the deputies would make.”
Arnott was asked by the Springfield News-Leader what he would do if a deputy complained about the religious decal, and he said, "Well, I guess he’d have to work somewhere else if he didn’t like it that bad. I mean it’s on our currency, so my recommendation is he doesn’t spend any money.”
"It's part of our heritage, it's patriotic," Stone County Sheriff Doug Rader told WKRC in July. "I mean, 'In God We Trust' has been a national motto since 1956."
While it's true that "In God We Trust" became the national motto during the Cold War hysteria in 1956, Gaylor told the Springfield News-Leader: "'In god we trust’ is the the kind of motto that belongs in an Islamist state like Saudi Arabia. It doesn’t belong in a secular republic like the United States of America, which is predicated on an entirely godless, secular constitution."
"If we don’t have god in our constitution, why do we have god in our motto?” Gaylor later added.