A Vancouver man who stormed shouting out of Tuesday’s meeting of the Board of County Councilors has filed a petition with Clark County requesting that his own variation on “In God We Trust” be displayed in the public hearing room.
George Thomas, a self-described “dissenter” of religion, filed the petition — with zero signatures other than his own — requesting that Clark County display “In Dissenters We Believe” in addition to “In God We Trust,” he said.
Thomas, 77, left Tuesday’s council meeting shortly before the council voted two to one to display the motto, shouting “sic semper tyrannis,” a Latin phrase that translates to “thus always to tyrants.”
“I believe myself and other excluded citizens whose efforts and importance to American history run as deeply throughout American history as those who trust in god are due equal historical status and equal representation under the law,” Thomas wrote in the petition. “And that the Council ought not to move forward with displaying the motto, IN GOD WE TRUST, until such time as Clark County’s dissenters are included in the design and/or the matter is adjudicated by higher authorities than the Clark County Commission.”
Thomas, who until this week had never been to a county council meeting, plans to attend next Tuesday’s to present his petition publicly. He also contacted the American Civil Liberties Union, and plans to contact a lawyer to see how much it may cost to file a lawsuit against the county.
“I’ve been a citizen my whole life,” Thomas said. “I was born here, and they’re excluding me from the motto, the American motto. That can’t stand.”
Acting County Manager Mark McCauley hadn’t seen the petition when The Columbian contacted him for comment, but said it likely wouldn’t get much traction in the county council.
“Certainly we would consider it, and chances are we would just disregard it,” McCauley said. “I don’t believe that our councilors would take up a discussion of it. Petitions, they haven’t historically been a way to get business done around here.”
The county also has not been served any lawsuits, McCauley said.
The Pierce County Council, which voted last July to post “In God We Trust,” did not face any lawsuits over the issue, said Susan Long, chief legal counsel for the county council.
Courts have repeatedly declared “In God We Trust” as a ceremonial expression or an expression of patriotism, she said. In 2013, the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the dismissal of a lawsuit filed by the Freedom from Religion Foundation against the U.S. Treasury which claimed putting the national motto on currency is in violation of the separation of church and state.
“If you look at the case law, (lawsuits) wouldn’t have mattered anyway,” Long said.