The national motto “In God We Trust” can be seen in city and county chambers across America. Soon the motto will also been seen on police cars in Kern County.

The Delano City Council voted 3-1 on April 2 to allow “In God We Trust” decals to be placed on Delano Police Department vehicles. Councilman Bryan Osorio was the lone no vote.

While municipalities in other states have taken similar action, proponents believe this is the first time a California city has put the motto on police cars.

“We think this will set a precedent that will hopefully catch on in other cities. We want every city in our county to follow Delano’s lead,” said David Vivas, a pastor with World Harvest International Church who proposed the idea to the council on April 2. “This sends a strong statement to the community.”

Vivas said he has been researching over the past year how cities in other areas of the country have implemented such decals and thought it would be an appropriate fit for Delano and Kern County.

“As a patriotic American, I believe it is appropriate to have these decals placed on police vehicles,” he said. “This is not an endorsement of any religion nor does it violate the establishment clause of the First Amendment. This does not infringe upon a person’s right who chooses not to believe in God.”

Osorio said that while he respects the motto, he believes there needs to be a healthy separation between church and state.

“I’m a Catholic, so I see the importance of expressing your faith, but this is something that needs to be separated from a government agency,” he said. “We’re supposed to be neutral and nonpartisan as an agency. I think keeping that distinction is important.”

While Vivas understands the motto has religious connotations, he said it’s more about expressing patriotism.

“This is a part of American history, a sign of how much we love and appreciate our nation,” he said. “Our intent wasn’t to impose specific religious views.”

Vivas said he believes the decals could help provide a more positive image for the police department.

“There’s been such a smear against law enforcement agencies in recent years that they’re the bad guys,” he said. “I really believe people need to be reminded of the good that law enforcement does. Putting these decals on could change people’s perspective to one that is more positive.”

Bakersfield City Councilwoman Jacquie Sullivan said she is very excited about the development, having been part of a movement to have the motto placed in City Council chambers. The council approved displaying the motto in 2002, with the county Board of Supervisors following suit.

“This is huge news. This sets an example I hope many will want to follow,” she said. “This is a very courageous and bold move.”

Sullivan said to her knowledge the City Council has not considered adding the national motto to police cars, but said it’s something she wants to bring to the council’s attention in the near future in light of the Delano City Council’s historic vote.

Vivas said in talking with the Delano Police Department, the plan is currently to place the decals on the back bumpers of the 50 or so patrol cars. The design of the decals is in the process of being completed.

“We hope the decals will be paid through donations from private citizens,” he said. “We want to make sure they’re not paid for through taxpayer dollars.”

Joseph Luiz can be reached at 395-7368 or by email at jluiz@bakersfield.com. You can also follow him on Twitter @JLuiz_TBC. 

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