The battle over the nation's official motto continues into 2016 as a Louisiana city is going ahead with plans to add "In God We Trust" to all its municipal vehicles.
Elected leaders in Lake Charles, a city of about 74,000 that's 75 miles west of Lafayette, voted in November to add the national motto to the city's fleet of police cruisers, joining almost 100 other towns, cities and sheriff's offices around the country that have followed the recent trend.
Lake Charles will take things a step further, Louisiana's Orange Leader reported, by also affixing the "In God We Trust" decals to city-owned fire department and public works vehicles.
City leaders also said they're going to offer the decals to residents free of charge. The decals were purchased with donated cash, and no taxpayer money will be used for the program.
"I think when the citizens of Lake Charles see such stickers displayed on our vehicles they have a feel of trust in the elected officials," Rodney Geyen, who sponsored the measure in city council, told KSLA.
Donna Lamb, who lives in Lake Charles, told the TV station the motto has more to do with patriotism than promoting religion.
"Whenever we first got here we were running from oppression,” Lamb said of the first American colonists. “We need to come back together as a community. If it's by faith, it doesn't matter by what faith, but we need to stay there.”
In November, the Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation released a list of 60 police departments and towns that had added the national motto to police vehicles, along with information about complaints lodged against those departments. Since then, dozens more police departments, sheriff's offices and municipalities have added the phrase to government-owned vehicles, prompting the foundation to threaten legal action.
In an earlier media release regarding "In God We Trust" decals on police cars, the group said it was reminding police agencies that almost a quarter of Americans identify themselves as non-religious. That statistic comes from a 2014 survey of more than 35,000 Americans by the Pew Research Center, which showed an almost 8 percent drop in citizens who identified as Christians.
"Further, in a time when citizens nationwide are increasingly distrustful of police actions, it is frightening and politically dubious to announce to citizens that law enforcement officers rely on the judgment of a deity rather than on the judgment of the law," Annie Laurie Gaylor, co-president of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, said in September. The nonprofit group advocates separation of church and state.
There have been no reported threats of legal action against Lake Charles.
"We all have our own individual choices to make when it comes down to religion," Geyen told KSLA. "We are not trying to promote a religion as such. We are simply promoting the national motto."