Holly Ridge votes to display ‘In God We Trust’ in council chambers | Eastern North Carolina Now | Put God first

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By L.A. Williams
Christian Action League
September 16, 2022

The Holly Ridge Town Council (Onslow County) voted unanimously Tuesday to add the words “In God We Trust” to the wall behind their seats in the Town Hall council chambers as a way to reaffirm their belief in the United States national motto.

“This is something that town councils are doing all over the state. It’s a trend … and I think we need to show ‘In God We Trust,’” said Councilman Gregory Hines. He made the motion, which was seconded by Councilwoman Rena Bragg and supported by all five council members. Only Mayor Jeff Wenzel shared any reservations about the move. 

“I am a Christian. I am a believer,” Wenzel said, sharing that his business cards feature a scripture verse. He said that he was playing the devil’s advocate to prompt council members to take a second look at the issue through the lens of religious liberty.

“Christianity, at least in Holly Ridge, is in the majority right now. But what if it wasn’t? Would I be OK with coming to a meeting where it said ‘In Allah We Trust’?” Wenzel said. “Are we being inclusive?”

But Hines told Wenzel that displaying the motto is not a violation of religious liberty.

“We are not trying to force any religion on anybody. We’re just adopting what is already the national motto…. I think it is important that we do get back to trusting in God,” he said. 

Without delay, Wenzel called for the vote, and the motion passed.

The Rev. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League, commended the council’s actions. He said there is no question that such a display does not violate the Constitution’s establishment clause.

In fact, in their 1970 ruling in Aronow v. United States, the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals made clear that: “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. …it is excluded from First Amendment significance because the motto has no theological or ritualistic impact. As stated by the Congressional report, it has ‘spiritual and psychological value’ and ‘inspirational quality.’”

Creech pointed out that Holly Ridge is the latest among a number of North Carolina entities to begin displaying the motto over the last several years.

In 2015, McDowell County announced plans to install “In God We Trust” signs on its public buildings. The following year “In God We Trust” decals were placed on all marked patrol cars of the Rutherford County Sheriff’s Department, which prompted several other sheriff’s offices to follow suit. Although the Senate failed to take up the measure, the N.C. House in 2018 overwhelmingly approved legislation that would require the display of both the national and state mottos in prominent locations in North Carolina public schools. And in 2019, “In God We Trust” license plates became available to Tar Heel drivers.

Creech said the displays should be a reminder of the nation’s history. 

“In God, We Trust” appeared for the first time in 1864 and received formal Congressional approval the following year. In 1865 Congress enacted legislation to put the motto on the nation’s coinage. As the Civil War had come to a close, repentance and trust in God were major national themes. The motto was temporarily dropped in 1907 when President Theodore Roosevelt authorized new coins without the motto. But Congress restored the motto a year later. In 1955 Congress extended the act by requiring it be placed on paper money too. The following year, Congress officially made “In God We Trust” the National Motto.

“Our National Motto is inscribed in the House and Senate chambers in Washington,” Creech said. “It’s on the walls of the Capitol Dome. The National Motto’s declaration should be engraved not simply in stone but on the hearts and minds of our citizens, signifying our true strength and heritage as a people.”

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