Citizens of Klamath County calling themselves patriots came to the commissioner meeting Tuesday to support the idea of putting “In God We Trust” on the walls of the public hearing room.
“We fully endorse your idea of restoring the words ‘In God We Trust’ on the council chamber walls,” said Marshall Alexander, speaking for the dozen people who came to the meeting.
At the Dec. 23 meeting, commissioner Tom Mallams said during his personal comments he wants the nation’s motto on the hearing room wall.
Mallams got the idea from In God We Trust — America Inc., which promotes putting the words on public institutions. It is headed by Jacquie Sullivan, a Bakersfield, Calif., city councilwoman. The organization’s website says 433 cities and counties are displaying “In God We Trust.”
Alexander said he and his friends want a government with God, as he believes the Founding Fathers intended.
“What this country needs is more liberty based on those principals. And the principals are basically God and God’s word. And the whole notion of separation of church and state is just that: a notion. And a great distortion of the original intent of the Founding Fathers,” he said. “God and his word need to be at the center of government. And government should not restrict the church.”
Though separation of church and state is not listed in the U.S. Constitution, the First Amendment states: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”
Commissioner Jim Bellet agreed with the Founding Father’s belief in faith. He quoted John Adams and Samuel Adams.
“The people who formed this country were God-fearing men. I really believe that,” Bellet said. “I worry about taking God out of the government — county government, state government, federal government. I think there’s movement to do that. I think that is really a minority. I think a majority like to have a belief in a supreme being in the government of the United States.”
Mallams said the Founding Fathers were against the church controlling the state, not separating religion from government.
“Total control is what they do not want,” Mallams said of the country’s founders. “That’s not what we’re talking about. This still shows separation of church and state by having ‘In God We Trust.’ I don’t think that’s an infringement at all. A good government has to be moral and has to be religious.”
God and government
“We really can’t legislate morality, but on the other hand we can’t legislate faith either. You either have it or you don’t,” Alexander said. “But now we have the situation where the government at all levels, federal, state and local, are promoting and advocating just one religion. And that religion is atheism.”
American Atheists, a group advocating the separation of religion and government, says on its website atheism is not a religion.
“I think this is something we need. Without a moral compass we will go in circles or go down,” Mallams said of God and government. “I’m not saying, if you’re not a Christian you don’t belong here. Everybody has that right.”
In a previous article, Jann Carson, associate director of the ACLU of Oregon said one reason religious diversity flourishes in America is because of the government’s neutral stance on religion. Putting ‘In God We Trust’ on a government building would do the opposite.
“That sends a message to many people in our communities that their government, that they are a taxpayer of, they are a citizen of, is moving away from being neutral,” she said in the Dec. 24 Herald and News article.
According to the U.S. Treasury, Congress adopted “In God We Trust” as the motto on U.S. Currency in several acts during the 1860s. In 1955, President Eisenhower approved “In God We Trust” on all coin and paper currency. It was part of the anti-Communism sentiment of the 1950s, according to U.S. House’s History, Art & Archives website.
Mallams continued his assertion “In God We Trust” is a positive motto.
“I think our Founding Fathers are the ones who came up with the national motto ‘In God We Trust.’ They were very, very smart in the way they did that,” Mallams said. “They didn’t say in the Bible we trust. They didn’t say in god Allah we trust. They said in God we trust. That recognizes all religions that have a moral compass.”
Mallams further said the “In God We Trust” motto didn’t mandate a religion for all people.
“We have the right to choose. That’s one of the greatest gifts we have in this country is the right to choose,” he said. “Religion is one of those. Or the lack of religion in the personal lives. We can’t say you have to have religion in your home. That’s not what this is about. It’s the right to have that choice.”
Writing on the wall
Alexander said the dozen supporters at the meeting would be willing to pay for the sign or words “In God We Trust” on the wall. That would keep the county from spending public funds on it.
Bellet said he would support getting the citizens involved in designing a sign.
“It’s nothing written in stone yet. We’re working on that concept,” Bellet said. “I think this board is favorable to doing that.”