The Mobile County Commission voted 2-1 today to add a sign bearing “In God we trust,” to Government Plaza — joining local governments across the country who are displaying the national motto. Six Mobile County residents spoke in opposition to the resolution and two attended the meeting to voice their support.
Commissioners Jerry Carl and Connie Hudson voted in favor of the resolution, but Merceria Ludgood, despite her Christian faith, voted against it.
“I cannot, in good conscience, support an action that I believe is, at best, a hollow gesture and at worst, divisive,” Ludgood said. “I believe our role as county commissioners is a secular one. All taxpayers, regardless of their political and religious affiliations, should feel comfortable coming here to conduct their business.”
Ludgood went on to say the nation’s motto “rings hollow” when the political agenda of the current “In God we trust” movement is examined.
“While I can’t support this measure, I try every day in all my dealings to let God’s light shine through me in the way I treat people, in the decisions I make and in my personal conduct,” she said. “I try to do the right things for the right reasons.”
Others expressed concerns over the county’s display being legally challenged in the future.
“Federal courts have found that religious texts placed on government buildings are not shielded from constitutional scrutiny merely because they have historical significance,” said attorney Vivian Beckerle. “The very act of placing such a motto could invite lengthy and detailed litigation to obtain the motto’s constitutionality. That could cause controversy and squander taxpayer dollars on costly litigation.”
Those concerns are what persuaded the commission, at the behest of legal counsel, to prohibit public funds from being used to construct the display. It will instead be funded through donations to the county specific to that purpose.
Furthermore, Hudson said the donations would only be accepted from individuals or secular organizations.
“All these different religions were not created by God, they were created by man,” Carl said before the vote. “For us to take the word God and apply it only to Christianity is one-sided. When you look at the word God — Who is your God? Is your God money? Is your God a bottle? Is your God Allah?”
Carl said he didn’t understand how the word God could intimidate or make anyone uncomfortable especially since it is included on U.S. currency and in the Pledge of Allegiance, comments Hudson echoed.
“This is national motto approved by our federal government,” she said. “God may be different to many people, but the tradition of this country is ‘one nation under God.’ This is not meant to be disrespectful to anybody who does have a different belief.”
Prior to the vote, attorney and Baptist Deacon Bob Beckerle called the display sacrilege.
“The motto is defended as being patriotic and ceremonial and not religious. How can His name not be religious?” he asked the commissioners. “Treating it as patriotic or ceremonial is to trivialize Him. God is not a common place slogan on a municipal chamber’s wall.”
At this time, the location of where exactly the display will be has yet to be finalized, but Carl said it would likely in or near the auditorium where commission and Mobile City Council meetings are held.