King City Hall will soon have the U.S. Motto, “In God We Trust,” proudly displayed above its doors after the City Council unanimously approved on Monday an offer to have the phrase placed there by the U.S. Motto Action Committee.
King joins the county and Walnut Cove in approving the placement of the motto on government buildings, but the city council went one step further, also approving placing the motto on all city police and fire vehicles and above the city seal in the council chambers.
Rick Lanier, co-founder and vice chairman of the U.S. Motto Action Committee, told the council that displaying the motto was a way of promoting patriotism and expressing confidence in society, noting that the motto had been on U.S. currency since the 1800s and was displayed in both houses of the United States Congress.
“Displaying our motto is a legal right protected by the First Amendment,” he said. “This is our nation’s identity. Not one legal challenge has been raised against any city or county that has voted yes. There is nothing here to challenge.”
Lanier added that the placement of the motto had initially been challenged in Davidson County, but said that case had made it all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court which had refused to hear it, meaning the decision supporting the placement of the motto by a lower court had become case law.
He said the metal letters and installation of the motto would be paid for by private donations, many coming from the King community.
“Displaying the motto will serve as a perpetual reminder of our Godly heritage,” he told the council. “You can put it up in 24-inch letters if you want to, we are going to cover the costs either way. The letters will be up inside of 30 days.”
Councilman Craig Carico said he had seen the motto on the back of a police car in another part of the state.
“It just gives you a feeling of patriotism as well as what the establishment is really about,” said Carico.
Although the council unanimously approved the placement of the motto, City Manager Homer Dearmin pointed out in his staff recommendation on the issue that the city needed to be careful to not further divide the community.
“Management’s recommendation at this time is to not move forward with installing the motto,” he wrote. “To do so does not accomplish a public purpose, and has the potential to further divide a community that has only recently begun to move forward from the most recent wrangling brought about by a religious display.
“There are other people in our community besides Christians,” wrote Dearmin. “To those individuals, the motto on the front of City Hall may communicate the message that our City Hall serves only those who trust in God. It is not prudent for government leaders to reflect a leaning toward a particular religious belief on our government buildings. As government officials, we should be respectful of others’ beliefs or non-belief. Our city government should not give the appearance of supporting or endorsing any religious belief over another.”
Nicholas Elmes may be reached at 336-591-8191 or on Twitter @NicholasElmes.