A group of North Carolina commissioners have stirred controversy after expressing interest for the motto “In God We Trust” to be adorned on a Gaston County courthouse wall.
One of the proponents of the idea is Commission Chairman and preacher Tracy Philbeck, who sees no problems with having the phrase on the front of the courthouse, according to the Gaston Gazette. He said that it was not about converting people into Christians or making people believe in something they don’t, but rather it is an expression of patriotism and the values on which this country was founded on.
“I’m proud to say that I live in a country that has a rich heritage of a trust in God,” he told reporters. “Do I think putting that on a building makes everybody a Christian? Absolutely not. What I do think is that it honors our heritage and history.”
The county commissioners will vote to decide whether or not the phrase goes up next Tuesday.
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Dissenters of the proposed action say that it is another attempt to combine church and state. A Wisconsin-based group called the Freedom From Religion Foundation said it had already received word of the county commissioners' new plan and will react accordingly.
“We are interested in taking a look at it,” said Patrick Elliot, a staff attorney at the foundation. “We certainly oppose this action by the county government. We think it’s unconstitutional.”
The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a group that “works as an umbrella for those who are free from religion and are committed to the cherished principle of separation of church and state,” according to their website. The group was responsible for persuading the city of Dallas to remove a Nativity scene from government land last year.
Regardless of what arguments the opposition makes, though, Philbeck says that his mind is made up, according to local station WSOC 9.
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“They will just have to get upset,” he said.
The phrase “In God We Trust” has been printed on United States currency since 1864. However, it wasn’t until the height of the Cold War in 1956 that government officials made the phrase the country’s motto. This was part of an effort to divorce itself from the atheist agenda that the Soviet Union was pushing.