The Visalia City Council in California deserves a huge round of applause.
On Monday, when one council member suggested putting the phrase “In God We Trust” inside their chambers, the rest of them basically shut him down. There was no good reason to do that, they said, and it would only create more problems.
The Mayor actually offered a response I’ve never heard in these discussions:
Mayor Warren Gubler said council members like the motto as it’s used nationally and on the country’s currency. But when it comes to council chambers and local issues, the motto doesn’t fit.
“It’s the national motto,” Gubler said. “On a city basis, we don’t usually get into national issues. At the local level, we have public safety, having good roads and dealing with street gangs.”
In other words, What does God have to do with our city? It’s one thing for the federal government to promote this kind of ceremonial Deism, but a city council has different issues to handle and getting into a debate over religion isn’t one of them.
Mayor Gubler also said it would be divisive:
Gubler also said adding the motto may keep away residents who have a different faith or no religion at all.
“We have people of many different faiths,” he said. “We want the chamber to be welcome for everybody who wants to speak. It wasn’t something to put on the walls.”
Finally. Someone in charge who gets it.
Ultimately, the council member who suggested it, Steve Nelsen, was outnumbered by his four colleagues.
Nelsen said he knew the topic would draw a lot of comments. He also said he was surprised at the lack of support.
“I am trying to understand the dynamics,” he said. “I had my chance. I disagree with the outcome.”
That’s a fine response. He proposed it. They voted it down. He’ll move on instead of whining about it. But he shouldn’t have been surprised by the lack of support. Nelsen claimed the phrase was “something that identifies us as Americans,” but he’s ignoring the fact that it’s conservative Christians — and only them — who want to see this phrase in local government buildings because it honors their God. No one has ever mistaken that phrase as a reference to Allah. And it obviously isn’t referring to the millions of Americans who aren’t religious at all.
There’s your “dynamics” right there. It was a bad idea and at least this one time, a city responded appropriately.
(Image via Shutterstock. Thanks to everyone for the link)