Politics & Government

Pierce County Council approves displaying “In God We Trust” after volatile debate

After more than two hours of volatile debate, the Pierce County Council voted Tuesday to display the national motto “In God We Trust” in the Council Chambers.

In an unexpected addition, the council approved displaying a second slogan: “E Pluribus Unum,” a Latin phrase that appears on U.S. currency and the U.S. seal meaning “out of many, one.”

The addition failed to satisfy opponents who charged “In God We Trust” is a religious term that excludes and divides.

“It doesn’t take away the insult,” said Sam Mulvey, an atheist from Tacoma.

The divisiveness of the issue played out during citizen and council debate in the chambers where the display — most likely a plaque containing both slogans— is expected to be put up in November or December.

Some residents were opposed to any display.

“This is a secular place to do government business in,” Elaine Nevins said.

The debate boiled over at times.

One citizen was escorted from the chambers by Pierce County Sheriff’s Department deputies after council Chairman Dan Roach, R-Bonney Lake, gaveled him down for making disparaging remarks about some religions.

Later in the nearly three-hour meeting, Councilman Rick Talbert, D-Tacoma, charged that Councilman Jim McCune “has made no secret his desire” to use his position to support Christian-based initiatives. McCune, R-Graham, proposed displaying the national motto.

Roach gaveled Talbert down and declared him out of order. “You’re assigning motives to Mr. McCune,” Roach said.

“Let him speak,” many in the crowd of 35 people yelled. After calm was restored, Roach let Talbert finish his remarks.

Soon after, the council voted 4-3 to display both slogans.

Council members Joyce McDonald, Doug Richardson, McCune and Roach—all Republicans— voted “yes.”

Talbert and Connie Ladenburg, both Tacoma Democrats, and Stan Flemming, R-Gig Harbor, voted “no.”

Ladenburg had sought to replace “In God We Trust” with “E Pluribus Unum” because she said it’s less divisive and doesn’t have a religious base.

After the council defeated her motion, Roach said he liked Ladenburg’s suggestion and proposed the Latin phrase be displayed along with “In God We Trust.”

The council voted 5-2 to approve that amendment. Ladenburg and Talbert voted “no.”

Ladenburg also sought unsuccessfully to add other names for deities to “In God We Trust” and require the slogan be displayed in several languages.

A number of citizens spoke in favor of displaying “E Pluribus Unum” by itself, saying the phrase was inclusive.

Others supported “In God We Trust.”

Grant Pelesky, of Puyallup, said the U.S. Supreme Court has supported the motto.

Kay Frymier, of Gig Harbor, also favored invoking God's name on the wall of Council Chambers.

“It is my opinion we need all the help that we can get,” she said.

But Catherine Forte, of Lakewood, said she is a person of faith who doesn’t want “In God We Trust” put on display.

“It’s divisive,” she said.

Adam Smith, a Tacoma resident who is Jewish, said the four words amount to a Christian slogan that sends the wrong message.

That message, he said, is that “anyone who is different is not welcome here.”