Councilman fears lawsuit after city council puts 'In God We Trust' motto in chambers

Councilmember worries the board is inviting litigation.


A city council in Greenville, South Carolina voted this week to display the phrase "In God We Trust" in their chambers, despite a rash of separation of church and state lawsuits across the country.

The council was one of more than 370 government bodies across the country that voted to display the motto on a plaque after being propositioned by the grassroots organization In God We Trust – America, Inc.

Most councilmembers thought the religious display would be good for the city.

"I think it reinforces our sense of who we are and where we can from as citizens," Councilman Butch Kirven told News 4.

"It just reinforces the confidence that the citizens can have in their local government."

However, at least one councilperson thought that more clarification was needed on the legality of the plaque.

"I trust in God and I think every member of council will say the same thing," said Councilman Joe Baldwin, who voted in favor of the display. "I just don't know if it's absolutely necessary to invite a lawsuit."

Baldwin also wondered if "the U.S. Supreme Court will ultimately say it is wrong what we are doing," and admitted that he is "confused."

Indeed, local governments have been on the winning and losing side of freedom of religion and separation of church and state debates across the country.

The Supreme Court ruled in May that prayers are allowed in town meetings, but a Florida city council fired its chaplain and banned opening prayers after atheist groups protested. Student prayers and Bibles have been allowed by school districts, but a West Virginia district painted over a Bible verse in their gym after atheist complaints.

In God We Trust – America, Inc. founder Jacquie Sullivan told News 4 that she will put the Greenville Council in touch with an attorney to defend any plaque lawsuits for free.

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