HAVEN, KS – America’s official national motto — the words printed on every bill, engraved on every coin — is apparently offensive and inappropriate and must be eliminated from the patrol units of this tiny rural town in Kansas, or so decrees the members of its council.
At a May 2 meeting, the town council unanimously ordered Haven Police Chief Stephen Schaffer to remove decals that say “In God We Trust” from his department’s patrol units.
— KWCH Eyewitness News (@KWCH12) May 3, 2022
The five-member council’s vote came after councilwoman Sandra Williams made the motion, which also required Schaffer to remove a post from the department’s Facebook page that included a scripture quote.
Williams told Schaffer that the council did not believe Facebook was the appropriate forum in which to discuss God, television station KWCH 12 reported.
A “brief exchange occurred” between Williams and Schaffer, according to a draft of the meeting minutes. Schaffer then asked if the demands were directives from the council, to which Mayor Adam Wright said yes, they were.
Wright, who is a nonvoting member of the council, said he personally disagreed with the council’s decision. Wright told the Wichita Eagle:
“Whenever we are in emergency, we rely on [police], so they have to put their trust in something else besides human aspects.”
The mayor said an unnamed citizen had complained about the decals. He stated:
“We had a concern from a citizen about it that was brought to the attention of a council member.”
Mayor Wright said the legal department of the 1,164-resident town in reno County is looking into the matter.
“There should have been probably a little more discussion. I know our legal department is looking into, you know, is it an option? Can we have it? Can we not have it?”
The offending Facebook message that also got the ax was posted in March, when the chief encouraged citizens to help families who had lost their homes to wildfires in Reno and Harvey counties. Chief Schaffer wrote:
“Pray for our residents and pray for our first responders who continue to sift through this terrible disaster.”
He then ended the message with a Psalm 46 quote:
“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Shalom, Chief Schaffer.”
The chief explained to the Wichita Eagle how the offensive “In God We Trust” decals on patrol units came about a few months ago. Schaffer said:
“An officer came to me and said, ‘Hey, you know, I think it’d be a good idea [to add the motto to patrol units].’ So, I was like, ‘why not?’ We did it. It’s on our money. It’s our national motto. So I didn’t figure it would be a problem.”
The town’s decision sparked a national outcry, especially on Police 1, a website that covers the law enforcement community. Below are a few of the comments the website received after running the story:
“I wonder if those same councilors would forgo all their earnings because the currency they receive their paychecks in has the same motto on it?”
“ ‘In God, We Trust’ ” is printed on our currency; it shouldn’t bother anyone that it’s on the cars. I have no issue with the council asking for the department’s Facebook page not to have verses. I think there’s some compromise, but the way this council is handling this subject will only cause pushback from the officers and a large portion of the public.”
“Petty. Absolutely petty. I’m not a churchgoer nor am I religious but really, is this hurting anyone? Is having the motto ‘In God We Trust,’ ” whether it’s on the side of a building or the side of a patrol car, pushing a religious agenda? No, it’s not. This is micromanagement at its best.
It’s sad that in a society where our children, family members and friends are dying from so-called ‘legal’ drugs such as Fentanyl, crime is at all-time highs and cities are cutting budgets for law enforcement, city councils are wasting time and resources on petty issues like this. Grow up.”
“Sandra Williams needs to be removed from the council along with the member who seconded her motion. This is God’s country and I for one am sick and tired of people trying to remove him from our lives.”
“I think that this is absolutely ridiculous and should not be allowed to be voted on. Part of the First Amendment, if people would take the time to actually educate themselves on it, was created to prevent the government from getting involved in religion, not to keep religion out of government.
This is an obvious [infringement] on First Amendment rights and should be treated as such in my opinion. God bless all in blue!!”
Council votes remove "In God We Trust" from police vehicles: RENO COUNTY — As part of the Haven City Council meeting Monday night, council member Sandra Williams voiced concerns to Haven Police Chief Stephen Schaffer regarding “In God We Trust” decals on… https://t.co/GUflkbFZRu
— Salina Post (@SalinaPost) May 3, 2022
Haven City Attorney Jennifer Hill defended the decision and said the council voted on the issue after discussing it with city employees and some community members at the May 2 meeting. Chief Schaffer said of the unanimous decision:
“I was a little defensive, but in the end, we’re going to do whatever the council tells us to do.”
KWCH 12 spoke with several community members who disagree with the decision to remove the decals. Haven resident Ryan Warden said:
“I don’t think it hurts anything. I think the community feels that way. We have five churches in our community. I think they should have probably slowed down and done a little more research about what the people actually wanted and not what they felt was right.”
Chief Schaffer said many residents have reached out to him, supporting the department’s use of “In God We Trust” decals. He said:
“We’ve had a large outcry of support for keeping them on since news broke that it was a discussion in the council meeting, [including from] people across Reno County.”
Warden said he thinks the city council is not representing the community.
The mayor said the police department is required to remove the decals from its vehicles and Bible quotes from its social media accounts by the next meeting on May 16.
A Message To Those Who Say ‘In God We Trust’ Doesn’t Belong On Police Cars
March 28, 2019
Apparently the words “In God We Trust” triggered someone into an absolute meltdown last week. Here’s the message we got at Law Enforcement Today:
Law Enforcement Today:
I was driving through Texas today and saw the words “In God We Trust” on a cruiser on the highway. I’m not sure if your company oversees police unions, but I figured I should start by reaching out to you.
God is a fairytale. He doesn’t exist. Having these four words on the police means you can’t trust the police seriously, because they obviously perpetuate lies.
It’s a clear violation of the separation of church and state. It’s offensive to me and because it’s offensive to me, it’s obviously offensive to others and it needs to be removed.
It devalues the police. It devalues what they stand for. It shows they only protect people who also share their same warped beliefs.
Please pass this along. In God We Trust doesn’t belong on police cars.
Well, I’ve got some words for Joe.
I’m going to preface this by telling you I’m a proud Christian. I want to clear the air on that in advance. I’m of the belief that everything I have in life is because of God, who was so kind and merciful that He gave His only son for us. I pray daily, and I’ll be praying for you tonight.
Now that we have that out of the way, I’m going to set aside my faith for a minute in hopes we can try and find some common ground. Because clearly that’s not going to happen on the God topic, and that’s ok – I believe that as a Christian, I’m called to be a fisher of men… not just a fisher of other fishermen.
In 2015, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton issued a legal opinion on the topic you wrote to us about. He said that police cars showing the motto in his state are not a violation of the First Amendment’s Establishment clause.
“A court is likely to conclude that a law enforcement department’s display of the national motto, ‘In God We Trust,’ on its patrol vehicles is permissible under the Establishment Clause of the United States Constitution,” Paxton said, citing a long list of court decisions.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation has been fighting the displays. Prior to Paxton’s statement, they’d already sent letters to more than 60 police departments around the country asking them to stop the practice of displaying “In God we trust”.
Now let’s talk about your argument that it “devalues” police and means you can’t “trust” them.
If I handed you cash, would you spit in my face?
Would you tell me that my money was worthless? That the cash held no value? That you couldn’t trust it to make a purchase?
Here’s the thing, Joe. In 1956, President Dwight Eisenhower signed Public Law 84-140, which was passed by Congress.
That law directed the Treasury to use “In God We Trust” on money. But that’s not all. Congress also said in a joint resolution, Public Law 84-851, that “the national motto of the United States is hereby declared to be ‘In God we trust.’”
It’s gone to court. And in 2014, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, based in New York City, said that the use of the phrase “In God We Trust” on American currency was constitutionally permissible in the case of Newdow v. United States.
Who brought that suit? Attorney Michael Newdow, on behalf of 11 atheists and humanists and two organizations.
Newdow was made famous in 2002 when he won a ruling from the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit (who anyone with a brain recognizes as the looney bin of courts) that struck the words “Under God” from the Pledge of Allegiance.
The Supreme Court later overturned that insanity.
Newdow failed miserably. The Second Circuit shot down his argument that the words violated the First Amendment’s Establishment and the Free Exercise clauses, as well as the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993.
“We have never addressed the question of whether the inclusion of the words ‘In God We Trust’ on United States currency violates the Constitution or [Religious Freedom Restoration Act] and write today to clarify the law on this issue,” the opinion states. “Four other circuit courts have ruled on this question, however, and have found that the statutes at issue do not contravene the Constitution.”
Now Joe, listen, I get it. Words are scary. But in my experience, sometimes words are scary because they make us look deep into ourselves and we don’t like what we see.
My guess is that you’re afraid of not just those words, and not just police, but the idea that by recognizing that God exists means you have to recognize that some things are just outside of our control.
That’s how it is for police officers. While I’d never suggest they are all men and women of faith… I’d suggest that they’re willing to recognize that they do not have control over everything in this world.
That their own safety and protection is sometimes not in their hands.
Joe, I’ve been blessed to interview countless cops over the years.
Through tears, Micah recounted the day he responded to a 9-1-1 call and found a young boy accidentally hanging in the shower on a Soap-On-A-Rope.
The grandfather was crying desperately. It was the first time the boy’s parents had gone on a date in years… because his mom was terrified something bad would happen if they did.
Danny told me about the body of the baby he found. He also shared the story about running into a burning building – as a police officer and without fire gear – to save the lives of children. Danny is a father.
Brandon told me about the guy he caught on the way to kidnap, torture and murder his pregnant girlfriend.
Jessie told me about the day a terrorist shot him at point blank range through his patrol car window while he sat at a red light.
For so many… it’s all too easy to allow the darkness in the world to take over.
But we need to remember that those who hold the Thin Blue Line are those who fight to keep that evil and that darkness at bay.
Not all of them pray. But for the many that do… their prayers are fierce. And often selfless.
When they pray for safety… they are asking God to bring them home to their loved ones so that spouses aren’t widowed and children aren’t burying a parent.
They are praying for the recovery of victims.
They are praying for strength to get out of bed every day. To turn off the TV when the media paints them in a negative spotlight. When protestors demand the removal of “pigs” and “killers”.
They are thanking God for the stranger who bought them a coffee or for the opportunity to have saved a life or even just touched one that day.
They are asking for patience. For clarity. For support in the battle against the demons of post-traumatic stress that they and their brothers and sisters face.
When someone who isn’t a police officer is in church, they have the luxury of focusing on the service. The music. The family.
Our Sheepdog don’t have that luxury. Because they are often thinking about the unseen threat facing their parish. Their family. Their community.
Yes, chances are the police officer that drives those police cruisers you’ve seen puts their trust in God. But there are no guarantees.
And because there are no guarantees, perhaps it’s worth considering putting your own trust in God.
After all, I’d rather put trust in God and end up being right when I die… then NOT put my trust in God and end up being wrong.
Remember, Joe – you can always look the other way when you see something you think is wrong, like big scary words. But our officers will never look away when they see something they think is wrong… and neither will He.
In God We Trust.
Kyle S. Reyes
National Spokesman, Law Enforcement Today
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