The Bakersfield City Council is scheduled to vote on adding “In God We Trust” decals to police vehicles during its meeting Wednesday evening, potentially ending a debate that has sparked much talk over the last several weeks.
The city received around 180 emails on the topic since it was introduced to the council on May 22. All but seven appeared to be in favor of adding the decals.
However, many of the affirmative emails were identical, and the messages did not mention if the sender was a resident of Bakersfield.
“Please vote YES to approve ‘In God We Trust’ decals on the sides of police vehicles in the City of Bakersfield,” the messages read in part. “It's our national motto, it's on Bakersfield city buildings, and it's a much-needed message in our culture today.”
Bakersfield pastor and police department chaplain, Angelo Frazier, first brought the proposal to the city council by speaking during the public comments of a council meeting.
He said he made the proposal after seeing the decals on law enforcement vehicles in Texas and Arkansas.
“I’m doing this from the right heart. I’m not against anyone. I’m encouraging people that there is something bigger than us. I just happen to call it God,” he said. “(My hope) is that the community comes out and speaks because whatever the council decides, I’m okay with that. This is not about me. This is more about us as a community.”
He has received support from throughout the community. U.S. Rep. Kevin McCarthy has come out in favor of the decals.
"The law enforcement officers of Bakersfield are some of the best in the country who work day in, day out to protect our community," McCarthy said in a statement to The Californian. "Displaying ‘In God We Trust’ – the official motto of the United States – on Bakersfield Police Department cars is a testament to each officer’s commitment to upholding the rule of law and defending the City of Bakersfield and its residents.”
City Councilmember Jacquie Sullivan, who was a leading force behind adding “In God We Trust” to the logo plastered against the back walls of the council chambers, made the request to put the issue on Wednesday’s council agenda.
She has spoken strongly in favor of the “In God We Trust” decals, saying faith in God was very important the country’s founding fathers.
The proposal, however, has not garnered universal support.
In an unscientific poll on The Californian’s website, 70 percent voted against adding the decals, while 25 percent were in favor and 5 percent voted on the option “Which god?”
A group called The Original Motto Project, which promotes the phrase “e plurubus unum” — Latin for "Out of many, one" — as the country’s motto sent an email to the city against the proposal.
“In God We Trust, though it is currently enshrined by law as the official motto of the United States, is inherently divisive,” Executive Director Robert Ray said in the email. “Not only does it exclude a significant minority – i.e. the nonreligious – but it also excludes those religions that believe in multiple gods, as well as those that believe in none (like Buddhists).”
The Bakersfield Police Department has remained neutral throughout the debate.
BPD Spokesperson Nathan McCauley said the department would comply with whatever the council ended up deciding.
Private businesses have said they would pay the cost of adding the decals to police vehicles.
Frazier said officers that do not agree with the phrase could potentially opt out of the city directive, although details to how that would work have not been described.
You can reach Sam Morgen at 661-395-7415. You may also follow him on Twitter @smorgenTBC.