Florida city nixes godly motto in council chambers

After protests by local activists and a letter from the Freedom From Religion Foundation, the Venice City Council voted 5-2 at its Tuesday meeting against erecting an “In God We Trust” display in its chambers.

David Williamson, head of the Central Florida Freethought Community, a chapter of FFRF, spoke at the meeting against the proposal, as did Marie Glidewell of the Gulf Coast Humanists Association. The Sarasota Herald-Tribune reports that about 20 supporters of the display also showed up.

“This is not a chamber of the majority, it is a chamber of all,” Williamson told the council.

FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor sent the council a letter on Monday. “Posting ‘In God We Trust’ interferes with citizens’ rights of conscience and is a misuse of city property for the benefit of a system of religion,” she said.

It “sends an unfortunate message of exclusion to the fast-growing segment of the population who is nonreligious and do not find the notion of trusting God ‘a profound source of strength and guidance,’ ” she continued, quoting from the proposed resolution approving the display.

The proposal was just the latest in a series of nearly identical proposals that have been cropping up nationwide at the urging of an organization known as “In God We Trust~America, Inc.,” a group out of California formed to promote these displays in the chambers of city councils and county boards.

Such campaigns point out why the phrase, adopted by Congress only in 1956 at the height of the McCarthy era, should not be a national motto. “We hope this strong vote in Venice against the placement of a religious message in a government building is the beginning of a wider acknowledgement that ‘In God We Trust’ is exclusionary to a large percentage of the population,” said Gaylor.

FFRF is a national state church watchdog with 22,500 members, including over 1,100 in Florida.

Freedom From Religion Foundation

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