Another day, another controversy over using the national motto, "In God We Trust," on public property.
The newest municipality to add the phrase is Mitchell, South Dakota, after its city council voted Dec. 7 to add the phrase to a display in city hall. The Mitchell City Council voted 7 to 1 in favor of adding the motto, with the lone dissenting vote coming from Councilman Mel Olson, The Daily Republic reported.
"On a day when religious intolerance has been expressed by people running for the highest office in the land, I just don’t think that we should take an action that could be viewed by people who do not share our religious beliefs as an action of intolerance,” Olson said.
Towns and cities that allow the phrase on police cars and other public property have become a target for lawsuits of late, the majority of them involving the Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation.
The non-profit, which advocates for strict boundaries between church and state, has challenged more than 60 police departments in recent months for placing "In God We Trust" on patrol cars. The vast majority are sheriff's offices in Bible Belt states like Louisiana, Georgia, Arkansas and Kentucky.
Because sheriffs are elected directly by voters, they have unilateral control over policies within their departments.
In Mitchell, local clergy lauded the city council for its pro-religion vote.
“If we are people concerned about offense when we’re leading, we run into a situation where we never accomplish anything of consequence,” the Rev. Ben Payne said at the council meeting before the vote.
The council decided to use the national motto despite a recommendation from The Original Motto Project's Robert Ray to use "E Pluribus Unum," which translates to "From many, one," instead. The group advocates for the phrase, which was the original motto of the U.S.
Ray said "In God We Trust" violates the law separating church and state, but Mitchell's council members disagreed.
“It seems as though the minority tends to be loud and get their message out," Council President Jeff Smith said, "so now I think it’s time for the majority to start stepping forward and relaying what they believe in."