A county in Texas has decided to add the nation's motto, "In God We Trust," to official paperwork issued by its office — a decision that is drawing the ire of critics who believe it is a violation of the separation of church and state.
Tarrant County tax assessor and collector Ron Wright told KTVT-TV that the motto has been added to his office's envelopes and that it will be printed on tax statements next year — something he sees as both a "religious and patriotic statement."
"There are people who will see it and see a religious statement and there are others that will see it and see a patriotic statement," he told the outlet last week. "I look at it and see both."
Wright said he has pondered adding "In God We Trust" for the past year, recently making the decision to do so when it came time to order new stationery. And the change, he says, is rooted primarily in upholding tradition and defending American heritage.
"It’s part of who we are. "It helps define us as Americans," he added. "I think it was more seeing the elimination of the phrase and how things that have been iconic to us and have been important to us historically because of lawsuits and things like that."
Wright told KTVT-TV that there has only been one call into the Tarrant County tax office to complain over the decision. But a resident did write a public letter to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram expressing surprise after seeing "In God We Trust" on a car registration envelope.
"I consider that a violation of the doctrine of separation of church and state. It is true that my coins and bills contain this phrase, but it has been on those for years and I suppose I have grown accustomed," wrote Leslie Weid Fraser. "This (the return envelope) is something new and a lot closer to home. Those are my tax dollars, and I don’t want them funding a religious opinion."
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And some outside of Tarrant County are voicing their disagreement as well, with atheist blogger Hemant Mehta publishing Wright's office number and encouraging nonbelievers to call and politely complain.
"Wright is using the Motto Defense to give a big middle finger to all the atheists in the county, and he’s using his office to do it," he wrote.
Most of the people KTVT-TV spoke with, though, favored the decision.
The county paid only $3 to create a printing plate that would enable officials to add "In God We Trust" to public stationery.
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