Paso trusts God—sort of


The Paso Robles City Council voted unanimously July 5 to hang a banner sporting the embattled national motto in chambers where the body discusses city issues. The move caused surprisingly few ripples in the North County for one reason that eluded the mainstream media.
“What we approved was a government seal,� councilman Fred Strong clarified. “When you walk into a Paso council meeting, it feels like a conference room in a library. We wanted to make it more like a government meeting.�
The 84th Congress officially changed the national motto to “In God We Trust� from “E Pluribus Unum� in 1956—a move that continues to draw contention from secular groups.
Council members Strong and Jim Heggarty authored the item through an ad hoc committee in response to a nationwide movement launched in 2002 by conservative Bakersfield councilwoman Jacquie Sullivan. Paso Robles became the 19th American city to decide to present the national motto in municipal government chambers.
“I heard over the radio that there was a group back east that was protesting having the national motto on government buildings. I thought, ‘My gosh, they’re trying to take it down. I’m going to try to put it up,’� Sullivan explained of her decision to found the nonprofit In God We Trust-America.
 â€œAt this time, why would we want to be more divisive?â€? asked Peggy Koteen of San Luis Obispo’s Atheists United.
The secular group, along with the local chapter of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, opposes Sullivan’s movement, arguing that posting the controversial phrase in public violates the constitution.

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