In a 5-1 vote in April, Newport Beach City Council voted to install the national motto, “In God We Trust,” in 4-inch white letters in the back of the council chambers.
There is no set timeline for the installation, but a staff report for the California city said it would cost between $2,600 and $3,600. The installation cost will be raised through private donations.
City Councilman Kevin Muldoon is helping raise funds for the project. “The official motto of the United States, In God We Trust, can be found in council chambers, state courtrooms and federal buildings throughout the country as an acknowledgement of God’s rightful place in government,” said Muldoon, according to Corona del Mar Today.
Mayor Ed Selich was the lone dissenter. “I received letters of opposition to it from residents," Selich said. "It seemed to me it wasn't worth causing dissension or disharmony by placing it in the chambers.”
In an email, Corona del Mar resident Tom Moulson wrote: “Who exactly is 'we?' You or us chickens? Nobody asked me. And then what is God entrusted to do? Preserve our beaches? Protect us from earthquakes? End the drought? If the phrase is definable, please define it…”
Another resident, Laura Curran, wrote: “It implies a prioritization of religious belief systems which is inappropriate and off-putting to many members of the public, including those who practice a religious faith.”
Jim Mosher warned of an "In God We Trust" movement “spearheaded and tirelessly promoted by 20-year Bakersfield, California, Councilwoman Jacquie Sullivan.” Mosher later suggested to the council: “As an additional alternative, I might suggest that the council members who feel a personal need to be reminded that their decisions should be guided by their private religious beliefs could simply keep a copy of this motto at hand in their private area behind the dais.”
Activist organization Original Motto Project, which aims to change the national motto to ‘E Pluribus Unum,’ posted on its website that the Newport Beach City Council had done the deal “even though the council had never spoken about it in public meetings.”
In response to critics who opposed the installation on the basis of the First Amendment clause establishing a separation of church and state, Muldoon said in an interview with Daily Pilot that the separation “was intended to protect the church from the state's abusive power.” He added that it was “never intended to create a secular society or erase God from our history.”
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