Lord, we ask that you would grant great favor to Councilman Wapner as he seeks to establish “In God We Trust” on the state seal of Ontario, California. Cause his enemies to be scattered. May other cities and states across the nation follow in his footsteps.
ONTARIO – Councilman Alan Wapner wants to bring God back into city government.
While recently checking his e-mails, Wapner came across a request from In God We Trust America, a volunteer-based organization asking the state’s elected officials to display the nation’s motto under the emblems of their respective cities.
The letter prompted Wapner to place the item on tonight’s council agenda.
“I took a look at that, and it tugged at my heart,” Wapner said. “It is found in the Pledge of Allegiance, on our currency, so why not post `In God We Trust’ on our city seal?”
Wapner, who is Jewish, said the idea’s inclusive, nonsecular nature appealed to him.
“It’s not specific to any religion,” he said, adding that his rabbi agreed with him.
But Annie Laurie Gaylor, co-president of Freedom from Religion Foundation, scoffs at the reasoning, calling it “misguided.”
“What’s God got to do with City Hall?” she said.
The national motto, Gaylor said, should be “E Pluribus Unum,” which is Latin for “One from many.”
“This is worth a court battle, because it has an impact up close and personal. An atheist person can go before the City Council, and that’s staring you in the face,” she said. “It’s proselytizing
Gaylor said she was aware of the mission of the organization, but did not know Ontario’s council would be voting on it.
The foundation is no stranger to the Inland Valley.
In September 2009, Freedom From Religion Foundation filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Riverside, claiming Rancho Cucamonga and Redevelopment Director Linda Daniels violated the group’s free-speech rights. The foundation had a billboard at Archibald Avenue and Foothill Boulevard that displayed the message “Imagine No Religion.” The billboard was supposed to be up for a month, but was removed almost a week after it went up, according to the foundation.
About 15 percent of the nation’s population and about 17 percent of California’s population are atheists, she said.
“We have members in Ontario. I know people in Ontario,” Gaylor said.
The wording would only be added to the city seal that is displayed at council meetings, Wapner said.
The exact cost for the addition to the city seal has not been determined, but Wapner said he would not put the financial burden on the taxpayer. He offered to pay for it himself, but he said the council has agreed to help pick up the tab.
In the Inland Empire, the item has already been approved by the cities of Chino, Highland and Victorville.
To date, 64 cities in the state and more than 70 cities nationwide have made the change, said Jacquie Sullivan, founder of In God We Trust America.
“I think it’s important to promote our motto,” she said. “It promotes patriotism, and to most of us it promotes our love of God and our love for this country.”
The longtime Bakersfield councilwoman said she started the movement in 2002 after she heard about efforts on the East Coast to remove the phrase from government buildings.
“If they’re going to fight to take it down, then I’m going to work to put it up,” she said.
At the time, some in the Bakersfield council were opposed to the idea, but Sullivan said it eventually passed by a 6-1 vote.
Instituting the language is not about imposing religion into government, Sullivan said, adding that it became the nation’s motto when it was approved by Congress in 1956.
“It is our right to publicly display our nation’s motto,” she said.
Councilman Jim Bowman found the request to be reasonable and wouldn’t mind making the donation.
“We need to stick with the strength of the country. This country has its moral roots in that saying, and we should operate that way,” Bowman said.
Mayor Paul Leon, who is also a Christian pastor, said the motto `In God We Trust’ is an icon of American culture, history and faith.
“To say any different is to deny the facts of history,” Leon said.