PENDER, Neb. | A divided Thurston County Board of Supervisors on Monday decided to add the motto "In God We Trust" in a prominent place in the county courthouse.
Barb Otto, of Valentine, Nebraska, is traveling the state, encouraging county elected officials to add the religious-motivated phrase in public buildings.
After hearing Otto speak at their weekly meeting Monday, the supervisors voted, 4-2, to put the phrase in letters of a readable size in the board room of the courthouse at 106 Fifth St. in Pender.
The Pacific Justice Institute in Sacramento, Calif., a conservative legal defense organization, stands ready to defend any lawsuit that would be filed against the county taking that step.
"It is our national motto. I don't see anything wrong with it," said Supervisor Leonard Peters, a 10-year board member who lives in Pender.
Also voting in favor of the motto were Roger Nelson, of Rosalie, Dan Trimble, of Pender, and Mark English, of Walthill. Voting against the resolution were Darren Wolfe, of Macy, and Georgia Mayberry, of Winnebago.
Wolfe, a 12-year supervisor, said displaying the motto is not good public policy, since it violates the separation of church and state. He said religious symbols such as a Christian cross or Jewish Star of David should not be displayed in public buildings.
"It is just like having a cross on the wall. That will lead to the interpretation...that all our judgments are based on what our religious beliefs are. I don't have problems with people who have a religious belief. But it doesn't belong on a county building wall," Wolfe said.
Trimble had a different stance.
"It is on our currency," Trimble said of "In God We Trust." I don't feel there is anything wrong with displaying that. It is not putting any religion down...I am not trying to offend anybody."
Trimble, Wolfe and Peters said Otto plans to speak in other Northeast Nebraska counties on her quest to have "In God We Trust" in as many counties as possible.
Pacific Justice Institute President Brad Dacus said the group will defend any governments that get sued for displaying the phrase.
"We are seeing an explosion of municipalities choosing to do this," Dacus said.
Said Trimble, "We are far from the first county to do it."