McAlester News-Capital, McAlester, OK

August 22, 2011

In God We Trust” to be posted at the Pittsburg County Courthouse

By Jeanne LeFlore
Staff Writer

McALESTER — TThe motto “In God We Trust” will be posted in the Pittsburg County Courthouse in just a few weeks according to Kevin Smith, Pittsburg County District 2 commissioner.

The posting comes after a resolution was signed by the commissioners in May.

The resolution called H. Con. Res. 13, came in a  letter addressed to the McAlester City Hall as well as Pittsburg County commissioners from the law offices of Dee Wampler and Joseph Passanise, trial attorneys in Springfield, Mo. In the letter the government officials were are asked to consider posting “In God We Trust” prominently at the Pittsburg County Courthouse and McAlester City Hall. The letter says “hundreds of cities across the United States are doing so.”

The McAlester City Council approved the resolution to install the motto “In God We Trust” in City Hall. The Pittsburg County Commissioners also agreed to spend county dollars for the motto in April. The exact amount has not yet been decided.

“I ain’t got a problem with it,” said Dist. 1 Commissioner Gene Rogers after the May meeting. “I support it. I think it should be posted in the courthouse because the government supports this slogan and we support our government. I think it should be everywhere. 

“I think it should already be up there. I don’t know anyone that wouldn’t want it posted around here.” said Dist. 3 Commissioner Ronnie Young.

Commission Chairman Kevin Smith supports the resolution to post “In God We Trust” in the courthouse and said the sign will be posted using county tax dollars. “I think it’s a good deal and it goes with our history and how our county was founded.”

Dee Wampler the author of the letter, spoke to the News-Capital from Missouri in April. “I just sent this letter as a private citizen,” he said. “Although I am an attorney and I am involved with several Christian legal groups, I believe that we are losing our American history. We are a Christian nation and we are losing the faith of our fathers. It is my belief that for all Americans and for new people coming in to America they need to recognize what our history is, what our culture is.”

In April, McAlester Mayor Kevin Priddle told the News-Capital that he agreed with the resolution on a personal level. “I believe the founding fathers true meaning was to ensure that the government wasn’t intruding on religion, not to keep God out of the government,” he said.

In May, the McAlester City Council adopted the same resolution but the council voted not use public funds.

“This will be funded by private donors and we have every intention of following through and putting this (“In God We Trust” motto) in City Hall,” said Pete Stasiak, city manager.

While this the motto is asked by the resolution to be posted in all public schools, governmental institutions and public buildings there is no mention of the posting in churches. 

The U.S. House of Representatives approved a bill after a sharp partisan debate on March 17. House Concurrent Resolution reaffirms the term “In God We Trust” as the nation’s official motto and encourages its public display in all public buildings, public schools, and government institutions. 

The resolution will now be sent to the full House for a vote.

Congressman J. Randy Forbes (R-VA), the founder and chairman of the Congressional Prayer Caucus, sponsored the legislation. 

“There is a small minority who believes America does not have the right to trust in God, who believes the United States should not affirm trust in God, and who actively seek to remove any recognition of that trust,” Forbes said on his website forbes.house.gov.

President John Adams presented to the Senate and signed the Treaty of Tripoli in June 1797, which states that “the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion.”

The motto “In God We Trust” was adopted in 1956 during the McCarthy Era and has appeared on all U.S. Currency since 1957.

Although Pittsburg County commissioners and members of the McAlester City Council approved the resolution, opponents of the bill say that the motto “In God We Trust” does not apply to the more than 16 percent of Americans who identify themselves as atheist, agnostic, non-religious, or unaffiliated, and it does not apply to religious Americans who do not have Judeo-Christian beliefs.

According to Tulsa World, The American Civil Liberties Union successfully sued Haskell County in August 2009 after Haskell County commissioners approved the  placement of the Ten Commandments on the county courthouse lawn in Stigler. 

The ACLU of Oklahoma and a Haskell County resident filed a lawsuit challenging the display of the monument in October 2005, a little over a year after the Haskell County commissioners approved its placement on the county courthouse lawn in Stigler. 

Haskell County had to pay the ACLU of Oklahoma $199,000, covering all costs and attorney fees. The 10th Circuit court's decision said the county commissioners advanced their personal religious beliefs by erecting the monument. In their ruling, the 10th Circuit judges wrote, "In the unique factual setting of a small community like Haskell County," the Christian origins of the monument "tended to strongly reflect a government endorsement of religion." 

Tulsa World reported that soon after the  Supreme Court's decision not to consider the case, the 8-by-3-foot granite slab was removed March 17 from the Haskell County Courthouse lawn a placed about a block east on private property belonging to American Legion Post 22.

In Ottawa county, commissioners turned down a request to display the motto “In God We Trust” at the Ottawa County Courthouse. The three-person commission decided to take no action on the request made in the letter received from Wampler. Commission John Clark said he think it’s sad a religious gesture can’t be displayed because of the potential of a lawsuit over the separation of church and state.

For more of the story, see Monday’s issue of the McAlester News-Capital.

Contact Jeanne LeFlore at jleflore@mcalesternews.com.