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May 11, 2021

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Clark County OKs ‘In God We Trust’ proposal

Motto to be posted on meeting room wall

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Clark county residents gather in a public hearing room to talk about whether the words  "In God We Trust" should be used in a county public hearing room in Vancouver.
Clark county residents gather in a public hearing room to talk about whether the words "In God We Trust" should be used in a county public hearing room in Vancouver. Photo Gallery

‘In God We Trust’ effort’s leader monitors Clark County debate

After weeks of contentious debate, the Clark County council voted 2 to 1 Tuesday to display “In God We Trust” in their public hearings room.

Councilor Jeanne Stewart cast the dissenting vote.

“At the first hearing, I saw what seemed to be a conversion of the issue,” Stewart said. “It created unnecessary turmoil and conflict. Sadly, it entered a political realm. A realm where God became a political football, and I find that deeply distressing.”

During a council meeting that at times felt more like a church service, more than two weeks of debate culminated in nearly four hours of public comment. Many were forced to watch the meeting from an overflow room opened for the crowd.

About 80 people spoke, almost evenly split between those for and against posting the national motto on a wall of the chamber.

Dozens of supporters held bright green signs that read “In God We Trust,” shouting such things as “Amen,” “Praise Jesus” and “Hallelujah.”

Claudia Heacock of Camas was among those who spoke in favor of the resolution.

“I want to honor the founders of our country who did trust in God,” Heacock said. “I want to say that it’s very scary to think about having to come here and speak out in favor of God when I thought it was so obvious. If this doesn’t pass, God help us.”

Greg Romine, who also spoke at the Feb. 10 meeting, said not posting the motto would be an insult to veterans who fought and died for the United States.

“They died for the America whose motto is ‘In God We Trust,'” he said.

A crowd opposed, meanwhile, raised signs reading “E Pluribus Unum” — “Out of many, one” — and “Stop divisive distractions.”

'In God We Trust' effort's leader monitors Clark County debate

Familiar faces, including John Bunn, raised familiar arguments at the meeting. Bunn, who this week was joined by his Christian wife, Sarena Bunn, said he would feel ostracized by seeing the sign posted.

“I’m not part of the ‘We’ that’s in your motto,” he said.

Sarena Bunn, meanwhile, told the council that she was also opposed to the motto, and asked their 8-year-old daughter how she felt about the national motto, then how she felt about the council trying to display it.

“She said you guys are jerks,” she said to laughter from the crowd.

At one point just before the council voted, a man stood and shouted, “You exclude me” before storming from the room.

In the end, however, those who argued that posting the words would be divisive failed to convince Councilors Tom Mielke and David Madore.

“I think this motto is great,” Mielke said, as he moved to pass the resolution. He proposed the resolution about a month ago after he was lobbied by In God We Trust-America, an organization based in Bakersfield, Calif., that is dedicated to seeing the national motto hung in county and city offices.

Madore seconded the motion. On Feb. 10, he declined to second a similar motion on the grounds that anything short of a unanimous vote by the council wouldn’t be good enough.

Madore added that anyone who accused the county of wasting time by discussing the motto was wrong. He said he was grateful for the show of free speech that took place Tuesday.

“This is your county,” he said. “We want to hear from you on these issues.”

Madore also said that anyone who was concerned about cost need not worry — a number of private citizens and organizations have offered to help. He specifically recommended that people donate to Friends of the Carpenter, a Christian day shelter that gives the homeless, poor and those with special needs the opportunity to do woodworking.

Tom Iberle, executive director of Friends of the Carpenter, said the ministry was contacted Tuesday morning by someone to see if it would be interested in building the sign. Iberle declined to say who contacted the ministry. Though there is no agreement yet, he said the organization would likely be interested.

“It will give everyone here a chance to have a little piece of creating it,” Iberle said.

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