- Associated Press - Thursday, September 24, 2015

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (AP) - A group dedicated to upholding the separation of church and state is asking sheriffs in Missouri to remove “In God We Trust” decals from their squad vehicles.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation argues that the motto is “exclusionary” of atheistic and agnostic citizens. Co-president Annie Laurie Gaylor of the Wisconsin-based organization has suggested that sheriffs could replace it with a different decal, “In Reason We Trust.”

Greene County Sheriff Jim Arnott, who has defended his decision to put the message on the county’s squad cars last year, told the Springfield News-Leader (https://sgfnow.co/1KBa2w9 ) that he doesn’t plan to remove or replace the decals anytime soon.

“Here’s how I feel about it. It’s our nation’s motto. And that’s the bottom line. And it’s on all of our currency. It’s probably in 75 percent of the courthouses in the United States. It’s on our county seal,” he said.

Gaylor said her association also disagrees with the use of “In God We Trust” as a national motto.

“It doesn’t belong in a secular republic like the United States of America, which is predicated on an entirely godless, secular constitution,” she said.

The Missouri Sheriff’s Association voted unanimously last month to place the decal on squad vehicles throughout the state, at the discretion of the individual departments.

Similar religious decals first started showing up on law enforcement vehicles in southern states, but Missouri in particular is “the most egregious case” because the “In God We Trust” motto has spread across the entire state, Gaylor said, who calls it “a new and bad trend that is hitting the law enforcement world.”

“I’m just saying there is an injury to non-religious citizens by official government action that ties religion to the police or that ties piety to good citizenship,” Gaylor said. “From a personal point of view it sends a chilling message to non-believers.”

Arnott said residents can count on the Greene County Sherriff’s Office to treat them fairly regardless of their beliefs.

“We treat everybody equal,” he said. “And it doesn’t matter race, religion, sex, we’re going to do our job. That (a citizen’s religious beliefs) doesn’t even factor into any decision I would make or that the deputies would make.”

Gaylor said her association could decide to file a lawsuit to force sheriff’s departments to remove the decals.


Information from: Springfield News-Leader, https://www.news-leader.com

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