The Freedom From Religion Foundation’s lobbying arm is insisting that the Guilford County Commissioners vote tomorrow against imposing “In God We Trust” on 10 county buildings.
The Guilford County Board of Commissioners will be voting during its Thursday, Aug. 17, meeting on a proposal to place the phrase “In God We Trust” in 10 county buildings: the courthouse in Greensboro, the courthouse in High Point, the county jail in Greensboro, the county jail in High Point, the Maple Street Human Services Building in Greensboro, the Social Services Building in High Point, the Old Guilford County Courthouse, the county health division building in High Point, the health department building on Wendover in Greensboro, and the Guilford County Animal Shelter. The board is expected to approve the move, which will cost the county an estimated $40,000. By placing “In God We Trust” on 10 county buildings, the proposal’s sponsor claims it will make a statement about Guilford County’s values.
FFRF Action Fund is urging the board to vote down this proposal and refrain from placing such an exclusionary message on county buildings.
The motto “In God We Trust” is not part of our nation’s foundational principles or sentiments, the Fund points out. The phrase was chosen belatedly as a national motto by an Act of Congress only in 1956 as a response to the Cold War. This symbolic unity of “God” with government has created a lack of respect for the previously revered constitutional principle of the separation of state and church and for America’s original, entirely secular motto, “E pluribus unum,” (From many, one), chosen by Thomas Jefferson, John Adams and Benjamin Franklin.
“The United States was founded by Enlightenment-inspired thinkers who valued reason and skepticism,” FFRF Legal Fellow Sammi Lawrence writes to Guilford County Board of Commissioners Chair Melvin Alston. “If the Framers had wanted to establish the U.S. based on religious principles, they would have said so in the Constitution, the founding document of our nation. Instead they did the opposite. Our Founders made the United States the first among nations to adopt a godless and entirely secular Constitution, one whose only references to religion are exclusionary (e.g., Article VI’s prohibition of any religious test as a qualification for public office).”
Furthermore, FFRF Action Fund points out, the Guilford County Board of Commissioners represents a diverse community that includes nonreligious citizens. Placing “In God We Trust “ on county buildings sends the message to such citizens that they are outsiders and disfavored members of their community. Promoting trust and belief in God excludes those who are among the nearly one in three adult Americans (29 percent) who are religiously unaffiliated.
The Fund urges the board to vote against the “In God We Trust” proposal in order to respect both the constitutional principle of separation of state and church and the diversity of its community.
“The motto ‘In God We Trust’ isn’t even accurate,” says FFRF Action President Annie Laurie Gaylor. “To be accurate it would have to say, ‘In God Some of Us Trust,’ and that would be a very silly motto.”
FFRF Action Fund is the legislative affiliate of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, a national nonprofit organization with more than 40,000 members and several chapters across the country, including over 900 members and a local chapter in North Carolina. We work to protect the constitutional separation between state and church and the rights of America’s growing population of nonbelievers.