SPENCER — “In God We Trust” is the US motto signed by President Dwight Eisenhower in 1956, and now an organization co-founded by a former Davidson County commissioner is working to put that motto on every government vehicle and building in the state .
Richard Lanier appeared before the Spencer Board of Aldermen Tuesday to ask that the city be the next community to join.
“Right now we’ve had success in 65 counties in the state, including Rowan County,” he told the board as he showed images of City Hall, indoors and out, emblazoned with the motto, along with police patrols and public works vehicles.
“We haven’t had a single legal challenge since we started because it’s absolutely legal, absolutely allowed,” he said. “Davidson County has led the way and we hope your city will be our next addition.”
Board member Sam Morgan, a Vietnam veteran, said he sent photos to Lanier to be edited for the meeting so others could see what the design would look like.
“We renovated part of the plaza for the new city hall and police station, and aside from some artwork by high school students, it’s pretty barren,” Morgan said. “I asked to put the state seal and the city logo on the walls, just to give it some life. That would be part of it.
The board added the item to the September agenda for discussion, and Morgan said he believes a public hearing will be called.
“I’m very much an advocate for people standing up for their rights and beliefs,” he said, “so people should have a chance to have their say.”
Board member Andrew Howe agreed that a public hearing was essential.
“I’m a lawyer, so I took some time this weekend to look into the constitutionality of this proposal, and Mr. Lanier is right, legally it’s perfectly fine,” Howe said. “I’m fine with that, too. But this is not our building, it belongs to the community and future residents will have to live with the things we are doing now. We are a town of 3,300 people and I suspect many of them may feel the same way I do. Either way I’m fine. But the city needs to give people a chance to speak. And people should do it. It’s important to have that ‘inclusion’ and I, for one, am very eager to hear what people have to say.”
Howe noted that he wasn’t sure exactly where Lanier’s organization requested the motto be used.
“Is it everywhere, just on buildings, on police cars, I wasn’t sure he specified, but I’d like to know that,” Howe said.
According to information on the organization’s website, “since January 2015, over 80 municipalities have voted yes to display ‘In God We Trust’ in and on their government buildings. To date, over 250 displays have been installed in 50 NC counties and 37 city halls. In addition to providing these permanent displays to public buildings, some 34 North Carolina sheriff’s departments, 14 police departments and 20 fire departments have installed more than 2,700 reflective “In God We Trust” decals on their vehicles. All this is the result of the efforts of the US Motto Action Committee, which, after receiving approvals from the government authorities, pays all the expenses for these displays.
It all started when Lanier led the Davidson County Board of Commissioners to agree to publicly display “In God We Trust” on the outside of the Davidson County Government Center. The installation was completed on December 29, 2002, and the next day Lanier became a co-founder of the US Motto Action Committee.
The work is being paid for entirely by private donations, he told the board, and the average cost to install a motto display at City Hall is about $2,500 per site.