FFRF urges Utah city to drop sectarian religious motto

State of Utah Seal

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is urging Orem (Utah) Mayor David Young and its City Council to rescind the decision to adopt “In God We Trust” as the official motto.

The Orem City Council recently voted unanimously to adopt the motto because it is “a representation of the community’s values and heritage.” Young described the motto as “a reflection of our collective faith, our commitment to one another, and our trust in the foundational principles that guide us.” The phrase is to be incorporated into the official city seal and will be displayed in prominent locations throughout Orem, including city buildings, parks and the Orem Public Library.

Young has recently attempted to downplay the divisive message that the adoption of the motto sends to the community by saying that the intention “is to signify trust in the broader sense — trust in the greater good, in the bonds of our community, and in the ideals that unite us.” However, in his “Mayor’s Message” two months ago, Young talked about the “core values of God” and highlighted the religious purpose for the adoption of the phrase:
The acknowledgement of the divine in our city proceedings can only ennoble and strengthen our efforts to make Orem the best place in America to raise a family. This motto can serve as a constant reminder that we are a community that sets high goals and is guided by a higher purpose.

FFRF is calling for the city to reverse course.

“Orem, like all cities in the United States, has a diverse population that includes atheists and members of minority religions that don’t believe in a monotheistic god or any gods who are not shown ‘value and respect’ by the decision to adopt this motto,” FFRF Staff Attorney Chris Line writes to Young.

It is inappropriate for the city to adopt a religious motto and to display “In God We Trust” on government property, FFRF emphasizes. Statements about a god have no place on city-owned property. Public officials should not use their government position and government property to promote religious belief. The city serves all residents of Orem — not just those who believe in a god or a “higher purpose.”

Citizens interact with and rely on city officials during some of the most urgent times of their lives. These citizens should not be made to feel offended and excluded because the local government they support with their taxes oversteps its power by affiliating itself with a belief in God and prominently displaying a religious statement on city property.

The history of the motto “In God We Trust” is a dubious one: It was first adopted during the Cold War as a reaction to the purported “godlessness” of communism. America’s original motto was purely secular — “E Pluribus Unum” (“out of many, one”) — and was selected by Thomas Jefferson, John Adams and Benjamin Franklin. Nearly 30 percent of Americans today are nonreligious. “In God We Trust” is thus not even accurate — for it to be accurate, it would have to read, “In God Some of Us Trust.”

“The city of Orem’s adoption of this slogan comes with a clear message to all of those who don’t believe in the one God: We put our faith before you,” says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is the largest national association of freethinkers, representing more than 40,000 atheists, agnostics and others (including hundreds of members in Utah) who form their opinions about religion based on reason, rather than faith, tradition or authority.

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Freedom From Religion Foundation

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