Six county commissioners in Guilford County, N.C., vote down theocratic “In God We Trust” measure

N.C. commissioners reject Christian nationalism while a former state rep pushes it


FFRF Action Fund names six Guilford County, N.C., commissioners as “Secularists of the Week” for rejecting an effort to plaster “In God We Trust” onto 10 county buildings. Meanwhile, disgraced former Washington state Rep. Matt Shea, an infamous Christian nationalist, is this week’s “Theocrat of the Week” for his recent appearance alongside the Spokane mayor at a Christian nationalist worship event hosted by singer Sean Feucht. 

In Guilford County, the appropriately named Commissioner James Upchurch proposed putting the 1950s-era national motto, “In God We Trust,” on county-owned buildings, including courthouses, the animal shelter, and the health department. However, input from the community quickly flooded in: One commissioner noted that she received “more than 50” emails regarding the proposal, all of which opposed it.

The measure was voted down by County Board Chair Skip Alston, as well as commissioners Carlvena Foster, Mary Beth Murphy, Carly Cooke, Frankie Jones and Kay Cashion. Only Upchurch and one other commissioner, Alan Perdue, voted for the proposal.

Ironically, Upchurch tried to sell the divisive proposal by claiming it would “help us move toward a more unified community.” But he gave the game away by also noting the theocratic phrase was meant to promote “traditional values,” a common dog whistle for Christian nationalist ideals. It became clear that the only unity Upchurch sought was based on his personal, religiously motivated beliefs.

The FFRF Action Fund thanks the six commissioners who voted against the measure for living up to their oath to uphold the U.S. Constitution, which prohibits the government from favoring any one religion, or religion over nonreligion. The phrase “In God We Trust” is, after all, an inherently un-American motto.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the country, notorious Christian nationalist Matt Shea is at it again. Shea is the FFRF Action Fund’s “Theocrat of the Week,” a moniker he has earned several times over. The disgraced former lawmaker recently appeared on stage with fellow Christian nationalist Sean Feucht and Spokane Mayor Nadine Woodward. Shea promptly threw her under the bus after she tried to distance herself from him and his unsettling views.

Shea became infamous years ago when a violent screed he authored was unearthed, which he had helpfully titled “Biblical Basis for War.” The staggeringly hypocritical document began with a list of “4 Ways to know its [sic] time to fight,” all of which amount to an unjustified belief that God is on one’s side. Sections such as “Organizational Structure for War” leave no doubt that this was meant to be a guide to literal, not figurative, war. Most alarming of all, it listed four “options” for “biblically dealing with tyranny,” one of which was “assassination & sabotage.” It explained that “assassination to remove tyrants is just, not murder,” citing a biblical verse that praises “treason,” by name, in overthrowing a non-theocratic government.

Shea’s document promised that martyrs will be rewarded in the afterlife, citing the Old Testament. It also instructed holy warriors to “make an offer of peace before declaring war,” demanding total submission to biblical law. If this is refused, the instruction is to “kill all males.” It listed a “Law of Booty” that requires that plunder be given to the “church & ministry,” not to the government. Adding another layer, the document is openly anti-democratic, stating that “God doesn’t use majorities. The majority is usually wrong.”

Understandably, Shea was urged to resign immediately, although he instead chose not to run for re-election. Since then, the only public officials associated with Shea are fellow Christian nationalists who share Shea’s extremist views, since any reasonable American official would realize how un-American and dangerously toxic he is. 

Shea’s open defiance of foundational American principles shows where his priorities are: He is serious about creating a theocracy and is too politically inept to hide that disgraceful fact.

FFRF Action Fund is a 501(c)(4) organization that develops and advocates for legislation, regulations and government programs to preserve the constitutional principle of separation between state and church. It also advocates for the rights and views of nonbelievers, endorses candidates for political office, and publicizes the views of elected officials concerning religious liberty issues. FFRF Action Fund serves as the advocacy arm of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, which has more than 40,000 members and works to keep religion out of government and educate the public about nontheism.