The Liberty Counsel, a conservative legal firm, has offered to defend a local Pennsylvania county council against prospective legal threats following atheists' objections to a proposed display celebrating America's national motto "In God We Trust."
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But while the legal firm is defending the adage, which was officially placed on U.S. currency in 1955, Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald, a Democrat, appears to be siding with secular critics, pledging to veto the measure if it passes, according to the Associated Press.
"Support and passage of [the proposed legislation] tells our residents and visitors that if they are Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist, Athiest, Muslim, Islamic or any other non-theistic group, they are not welcomed here," Fitzgerald said in an email to council members. "We are disrespecting other religions and beliefs by promoting one above all others."
He continued, "If this legislation were to pass, we are telling everyone that our motto is that not all are welcome here."
The Freedom From Religion Foundation, a church-state separatist group, has also spoken out against the proposed plague, which, if adopted, would be placed in Allegheny County's courthouse.
"It is inappropriate for the County Council to adopt a proposal that would place 'In God We Trust' on the county's courthouse," Freedom From Religion Foundation co-president Annie Laurie Gaylor wrote in a September 3 letter to the council. "Statements about a god have no place in government buildings."
But while Fitzgerald and the atheist group are decrying "In God We Trust" as an inappropriate message inside a government building, the Liberty Counsel is speaking out in favor of the proposed plague, accusing the Freedom From Religion Foundation of "harassing" its ideological opponents.
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"The FFRF is in the business of harassing schools, county commissioners, and any official who will listen to their claims that public expressions of faith are unconstitutional, including the National Motto," Liberty Counsel founder Mat Staver said in a statement.
Staver argued that Gaylor's claim that "In God We Trust" is unconstitutional is "deceitful," noting that Gaylor has lost a similar battle before and that the Supreme Court recently ruled that prayer at public meetings is acceptable in the contentious Town of Greece vs. Galloway case.
"The FFRF and its supporters are free to express their antipathy against our national history and the numerous expressions of our country’s faith in God, but they are not free to suppress the constitutional will of the majority," Staver said.
(H/T: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)
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