City council members in Chesapeake, Virginia voted unanimously last Tuesday to place "In God We Trust" decals on all city vehicles, then received a round of applause from those attending the meeting after the measure was passed.
Councilman Don Carey, who led the initiative, told CBN News that the objective is to "rebuild a healthy patriotism that can unify people."
During last week's meeting, Carey explained that displaying the decals will play a role in strengthening relations within the community.
"If you look around, you can see that the state of our country, the state of our city is crumbling from a social fabric standpoint. There is a lot of rhetoric that is divisive both in speaking of the foundation of America, the ontological existence of America nowadays and I think it's important that we have something that rather than divides us... unites us," Carey stated.
"If you look at the history of our city, In God We Trust has served as that unifying moment, that unifying banner in which we can all coalesce around. So in the spirit of that, I have three points to raise about what this is and about what this is not, based on some of the rhetoric I've heard."
Carey proceeded to point out that the project is not a new concept. In fact, by a unanimous vote, city council members elected to have the motto placed in the chambers in 2016.
"This is not us introducing something foreign, new, unheard of. In fact, if you look behind me, we have In God We Trust posted right above us and it aligns with the foundation and creed of America in that individuals are endowed with rights by a Creator. It was the magnetic pull that would bring so many individuals to America in the first place. The idea that we would appeal to a particular God as our foundation of principles and giving us certain rights that no government can take away - that is just good."
He noted that "In God We Trust" was authorized to be the nation's motto dating to the 1950s and has continued to be reaffirmed.
"We see again in 2011 and again on the state level side of the law in 2002 with the expectation we would have this motto not only in legislative bodies but also around government agencies to begin with," Carey said. "So I think it's good that we continue to push forth In God We Trust as a unifying banner for us to coalesce around particularly in a world that has grown ever more divisive, and I hate to say oftentimes by individuals in the political sphere."
The councilman explained that the motto is not an appeal to a particular God or deity and it's not being used as a tool to coerce people into Christianity.
"No where in the resolution do we mention a particular God by name or a faith by name. I am not seeking to use this as an evangelical tool to coerce individuals into Christianity. You all know I make no bones about the fact that I am a Christian and I stand on that," he said. "But this, like I said, is not an evangelical tool for that nature and part of the rhetoric around the separation of church and state in my mind is problematic because it makes it seem as if people think that God has no place in the public sphere of marketable ideas and I think that's disheartening."
"If you look at the foundation of creation that I mention, God is mentioned. If you look at whenever an inauguration happens for an elected official, we place our hand on some type of faith book. It's not just Abrahamic faiths, as someone mentioned. It's a faith book ... God is there. Look on our currency ... God is there."
Carey told CBN News that he has received pushback from citizens who say the decals drive a biblical angle that they don't support.
"Not everyone believes in God," he said. "They say 'why are you trying to push God down our throats?' Don't get hung up on the word God. It's a placeholder for those basic rights we hold true. Some would rather that 'E Pluribus Unum' be used. The purpose is good. It aligns with our city motto ... 'The City That Cares.' I honor and respect their opinion and I support it even if we disagree."
Lastly, Carey emphasized the importance of addressing these matters respectfully with community members and between both political parties.
"I think that it's extremely important that we continue to have that ability to discuss these things in a public sphere. Why? Because the foundation of America says that our rights are given to us by God. Not by any man, not by any collection of a body, and if that is true, those things can not be taken away from us.
"I mentioned that this is not partisan whatsoever. Though individuals make much about the fact that there are more Republicans than Democrats who sit on this body. If you look at the history of In God We Trust, it is always passed in a nonpartisan fashion and that is just good in a day and age where partisanship runs rampant in the political sphere. So I think it's a good thing that we continue to push forth this motto."
Staff members determined that it will take up to one year to install decals on 1,500 city vehicles if done during normal working hours.
The city's fleet management department will attach the decals as vehicles come in for routine maintenance or as new vehicles are purchased.