Last Thursday, the Mobile County Commission (in Alabama) voted 2-1 to put the words “In God We Trust” on a plaque in the city’s Administration Building. (The most surprising thing about that? Until now, “In God We Trust” wasn’t on a government-issued plaque in Mobile, Alabama.)
[Faulkner State Community College] student Amanda Scott addressed the commission first, advocating a different phrase instead of the proposed religious motto.
“I strongly urge the commission to reject the display ‘In God We Trust,” she said. “It would only serve to divide Mobile on religion when we’re already so divided on other issues,” she added. Scott proposed the Latin phrase “E pluribus unum,” meaning “out of many, one,” or “one of many.” She declared herself as an atheist and said the proposed display would exclude her in others in the public building.
Rhett Ellis, a minister at Unitarian Universalist, spoke against the display on religious grounds. “I speak to you as a religious person who opposes this,” he said. “The first amendment keeps religion out of government and most importantly, government out of religion,” he said. Ellis added that he doesn’t support the words “In God We Trust” being displayed on money either.
The people speaking out against the plaque also included representatives from the Alabama chapter of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, Atheist Alliance of America, Mobile Atheist Community, and individual activists.
Unfortunately, only one of the commissioners seemed to take their remarks seriously:
“I cannot in good conscience support this gesture,” [Commissioner Merceria Ludgood] said. “I believe our role is a secular one,” she said of the commission itself.
‘I believe Government Plaza is the people’s house. All should feel comfortable,” said Ludgood. She also called the inclusion of the plaque “legally dubious.”
“On a personal note, I’ve always found it interesting the things people do in the name of God,” said Ludgood. “For me, it’s in God I trust. You cannot legislate morality.”
Ludgood was met with applause, after which County Commission President Connie Hudson asked applause to be stifled for the “sake of decorum.”
Hudson and Commissioner Jerry Carl then voted for the plaque, with Carl adding, “I don’t understand how the word God would intimidate or make anyone uncomfortable.” Which is quite a remarkable thing to say after a parade of people just explained to him why the phrase endorsed in a government building — not the word “God” itself — would be problematic.
But we shouldn’t be surprised. This is exactly what happens when elected officials care far more about the Bible than the Constitution they swore to uphold when they took office.