Fresno has just become the largest California city so far to approve a display of the words “In God We Trust” in its city hall.
The Fresno city council unanimously approved a resolution to add the National Motto to walls. It will now be among the more than 130 cities and county governments that have included the phrase in its chambers.
District 6 Councilman Garry Bredefeld, who has been leading the charge, said he was inspired by a national movement which began in 2002.
“There is a vocal minority that wants to take God out of our beliefs, we shouldn’t be silent about that,” he said. “For too long, a silent majority has allowed a vocal minority to silence them.”
The decision to add the phrase has not come without opposition. According to The Fresno Bee, a large crowd of several hundred people packed the lower and upper levels of the council chamber while the measure was debated.
During the time for public comment, 24 supported the national motto and 23 opposed it.
“Right now I happen to think the country is the most divided it’s ever been in my lifetime. And you have an opportunity right now to fall in line with that great lineage of making this statement ‘In God We Trust’ not as a divisive statement but as a unifying thing,” said Alan Autry, a proponent of the resolution.
Several speakers suggested the motto was non-inclusive and a violation of constitutional provisions for separation of church and state.
“You think this is going to be inclusive? You think this is patriotism? Not for non-believers, not for atheists, and not for those who are free thinkers. I’m letting you know right now you’re setting Fresno back. And I hope you consider this and you may vote yes but I think you’ll regret it. Mark my words,” said Juan Avita.
But a majority of the audience favored adding the phrase to a wall behind the dais in the council chamber. Dozens carried signs of support, while others wore T-shirts with the motto printed on them.
The resolution requires that no taxpayer dollars will be used to add the motto to the wall.