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Motto Musing
What's behind the bumper stickers?
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The Barton County (Missouri) Sheriff’s Office has added “In God We Trust” decals to its vehicles, and posted a photo on its Facebook page.
In July, sheriffs offices throughout Missouri started adding the national motto to vehicles after the Missouri Sheriffs Association voted to approve use of the decals.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation has lodged complaints with sheriffs offices in Arkansas, Missouri, Mississippi, Florida, Virginia, North Carolina, Kentucky and Illinois. FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor wrote in a letter to Stone County (Missouri) Sheriff Doug Rader, “Elected officials should not use their government position and government property to promote their religious views.” Rader also has a verse from the New Testament on his office’s website.
Matthew Sharp, attorney for the conservative Christian group the Alliance Defending Freedom, said law enforcement offices should ignore complaints about the motto. “These departments should simply ignore the unfounded demands from these groups, especially since courts have upheld the national motto in a wide variety of other contexts for decades.”
Indeed, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that the phrase is used so often that it has virtually lost its religious meaning.
To be fair to the FFRF, a “request” is not a “demand.” Sheriffs can ignore the requests, even though an extensive survey by the Pew Research Center found 22.8 percent of Americans identify as “non-religious.”
Our Founding Fathers chose a secular motto: E Pluribus Unum, “Out of many, one.” But “In God We Trust” became the official motto in 1956. In 2011, the U.S. House of Representatives approved a non-binding resolution that affirmed it as the nation’s motto and encouraged its display in government buildings, courtrooms, schools and businesses.
U.S. Rep. Justin Amash (R-Michigan) was the only Republican to vote against the resolution, even though he assured his constituents he does trust in God. “Displaying ‘In God We Trust’ on public property is appropriate in some circumstances,” he said. However, “There is no need to push for the phrase to be on all federal, state, and local buildings.
“The fear that unless ‘In God We Trust’ is displayed throughout the government, Americans will somehow lose their faith in God, is a dim view of the profound religious convictions many citizens have,” said Amash. “The faith that inspired many of the Founders of this country – the faith I practice – is stronger than that.”
If the Barton County (Kansas) Sheriff’s Office ever adds the national motto to its vehicles, some will cheer, some won’t care and a few will be offended. Deputies will drive the vehicles whether they believe the motto or not. They may also continue to wear seat belts when driving.