Bishop Council votes to add motto to meetings.
On Monday January 26, the Bishop City Council voted 4-1 to approve a “Motion for Resolution” to have the words “In God We Trust” prominently displayed above the Bishop City Seal in the council chambers. The issue was overwhelmingly supported by those in attendance, comprised of mostly local clergy and church members.
The only “No” vote was cast by Councilwoman Karen Schwartz, who expressed concern saying, “I think we have a responsibility to all our residents to make our town seem inclusive and it (In God We Trust) seems like something that would exclude or divide the community rather than bring the community together.”
She was not alone in her concern.
Former City Councilman Keith Glidewell also spoke out against the measure. “I reject it for the same reasons that I reject having prayer in Council meetings. This is a taxpayer-funded public forum where people of all faiths and non-faiths, nationalities, and ages come together to participate in public business. Your support alienates those of us that do not believe in a God. We feel different and apart; not a ‘part of the Club.’”
Glidewell went on to say that, “I dismiss your evidence that this is the ‘right thing to do’ as so many people subscribe to this belief system. It is hard to accept that the accomplishments and morality that is associated with Christianity or religion cannot be obtained unless you subscribe to a religion.”
Councilman Jim Ellis responded to Glidewell saying that he did not think the Council will “run everything past a bar (of religion) in deciding whether to vote ‘yes’ or ‘no.’”
Glidewell was the only one speaking out against the idea. All other speakers testified in support.
Senior Leader Ron Sargent of River Church supported the measure, noting that “It is our national motto and is supported by the Supreme Court.”
Pastor Chris Costello told Council members that in his 27-plus years of living in Bishop, “I only had one person tell me not to pray for them when I offered it. Most people in our community are of Faith.” He noted that a 2011 Resolution in the U.S. Congress affirmed the national motto, “In God We Trust,” in both the Senate and House Chambers.
In response to a request that the City Council allow more time for the public to consider the issue, Councilwoman Smith said, “The only other subject that has brought out more public input was chickens … I have been working on this for a long time and gave the full Council quite a bit of research on it. It was announced on the radio and the agenda item was published in the Inyo Register.”
(Note: The announcement was made in the Jan. 24 edition of The Register, just two days before the meeting).
Gayla Wolf spoke with great passion in support of the measure saying, “At a time so many are challenging American traditions and values, let us do our part to ‘hope’ – which is what faith is – it is hope. We need in this county all the hope we can grab on to.”
Howard Wu told the Council that the phrase originated in “The Star-Spangled Banner”, which was written during the War of 1812. He read the fourth stanza which includes the phrase, “And this be our motto: ‘In God is our Trust.’” The Star-Spangled Banner is the national anthem of the United States.
The phrase first appeared on U.S. coins in 1864 and has been on paper currency since 1957. According to a joint poll by USA Today, CNN, and Gallup in 2003, 90% of Americans support the inscription “In God We Trust” on U.S. coins.
The motto printed on U.S. currency has been the subject of many failed lawsuits. It was first challenged in 1970. The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled: “It is quite obvious that the national motto and the slogan on coinage and currency ‘In God We Trust’ has nothing whatsoever to do with the establishment of religion. Its use is of patriotic or ceremonial character and bears no true resemblance to a governmental sponsorship of a religious exercise.”
In another case before the U.S. Supreme Court in 2004, this one on the Pledge of Allegiance, the court ruled that these acts of “ceremonial deism” are “protected from Establishment Clause scrutiny chiefly because they have lost through rote repetition any significant religious content.”
The City of Bishop will soon join more than 110 municipalities and counties in California, along with many more across the county that have given their approval to having the national motto displayed on or in public buildings.