In the continuing dialogue surrounding the placement of the motto “In God We Trust” on governmental buildings, the city of Venice, Florida, decided not to place the national motto on a wall in the council chambers at City Hall.
Supporters of the motto included Venice City Councilmember Emilio Carlesimo and Jim Walker, a North Port resident, who asked the council to consider the measure during a meeting on April 28. He said the measure was more an act of patriotism than one of religion.
At least 20 people who came to the meeting supported the measure, but those who opposed it also showed up.
David Williamson of the Central Florida Freethought Community and Marie Glidewell of the Gulf Coast Humanists Association both asked the council to leave religion out of politics.
“This is not a chamber of the majority, it is a chamber of all,” Williamson said.
Michael Barfield, who represents the ACLU, said that the separation of church and state should not be broken.
"That phrase is noted to be not neutral. It is distinctly Christian," said Barfield.
Walker was advocating on behalf of the nationwide “In God We Trust-America” movement, which seeks to place the motto in schools and both city and county chambers. At least 500 governments have agreed with it and of those 500, 17 are in Florida. Walker said that an unnamed group of people would pay for the $200 cost to mount a sign with the motto.
While many residents came forward to oppose the placement of the motto as “inappropriate,” others claimed that the attempt to remove references to religion, particularly Christianity, was unacceptable.
“To always have God taken out of things we do is offensive to me,” said First Baptist Church of Venice Pastor Tom Hodge.
Ultimately, Councilperson Carlesimo, who supported the measure, was overruled by the other five council members.
Image source: wikimedia.org