SB supes vote to add it to seal
Joe Nelson, Staff Writer
Posted: 12/14/2010 08:12:00 PM PST

The San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday unanimously approved the displaying of the “In God We Trust” motto in its chambers, making it the second county in the state to do so.

Acting on the request by board Chairman Gary Ovitt, the board unanimously approved displaying of the motto behind the dais.

“Your vote today will be demonstrating a commitment to the values our country was founded upon,” Bakersfield City Councilwoman Jacquie Sullivan told the board during the meeting. “This effort is really one of the most important efforts going on in our country right now. You’re going to be setting a wonderful example to other counties.”

Sullivan is the founder of the volunteer organization In God We Trust America, which promotes the displaying of the motto in city council chambers across the country. She said her city council approved the motto display in 2002, and neighboring cities started following suit.

Congress adopted “In God We Trust” as the national motto in 1956.

Tuesday’s action by the board, Sullivan said, has prompted her to revise her organization’s mission statement to read that the purpose of the organization is to promote the displaying of the motto not only in every city council chamber nationwide, but every state and county board chamber as well.

Seven San Bernardino County cities have approved displaying the motto in their council chambers in the last four years. They are: Highland, Chino Hills, Chino, Victorville, Barstow, Adelanto and Ontario. Imperial County is the only other county in the state that has the motto displayed in its board chambers.

Chino Hills resident and school board member James Na approached the supervisors in November, requesting that the motto be displayed in the chambers. He was acting on the dying wish of a friend, Chino Hills humanitarian Joyce Butler, who died of cancer last month. Na said she had told him she had always wanted the motto displayed in board chambers.

“I’m glad that Mr. Gary Ovitt has done the right thing with all the board members. This is a proven fact that they are serving the people’s interests, the residents’ interests,” Na said following Tuesday’s meeting. “I know that Joyce Butler would be smiling today as a result.”Ovitt said there will be no county expense for the motto display. He plans to pay for it out of his own pocket.

The county’s push to display the motto, however, has been met with resistance from the Madison, Wis.-based Freedom From Religion Foundation, which sent letters to Ovitt and Supervisor Josie Gonzales, board vice chairman, on Friday, urging the county to refrain from displaying the motto.

Annie Laurie Gaylor, co-president of the foundation, said in her letter that statements about God have no place in government buildings, and that elected officials should not use their government position or government buildings as a place for promoting their religious views.

Patrick C. Elliot, an attorney representing the foundation, sent a Public Records Act to the county requesting “any and all correspondence … sent or received by San Bernardino County Supervisors, containing the words “In God We Trust.” That request was pending Friday, county spokesman David Wert said.

Neither Elliot nor Gaylor could be reached for comment Tuesday.

In other actions, the board approved a more than $90 million construction contract to expand the Adelanto Detention Center from 740 to more than 1,300 beds.

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