Allegheny County Council to vote on displaying 'In God We Trust' on plaque

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Allegheny County Council will get its turn to decide if its quarters in the County Courthouse should display the words “In God We Trust.”

At a Committee on Government Reform meeting Thursday night, the group decided 5-1 to present council at its Sept. 9 meeting with an amended resolution that would display that motto, among others, on a plaque in the Gold Room, located on the fourth floor of the courthouse, 436 Grant St.

Councilwoman Sue Means, R-Bethel Park, initially proposed a resolution asking that a plaque reading “In God We Trust” — the national motto since 1956 — be displayed in the Gold Room above a replication of the Bill of Rights. Ms. Means, wearing an American flag scarf, insisted that displaying the words “In God We Trust” was a patriotic act. Eight counties or cities in Pennsylvania display the motto, including Glassport and Dormont boroughs, as well as Harrison Township, said Ms. Means, who said she is an evangelical Christian.

Two committee members raised objections to displaying a religious phrase in a state building.

“Most people in the United States are Christian, but the other people are American, too, and we need to watch what we’re doing here,” said Councilman Michael Finnerty, D-Scott.

Councilwoman Barbara Daly Danko, D-Regent Square, said she feared it wasn’t inclusive.

An amendment to Ms. Means’ resolution was presented by Councilman Ed Kress, R-Shaler. He proposed that the plaque also display the other historically significant phrases “e pluribus unum,” Latin for “one out of many” and a de facto national motto through 1956, and Pennsylvania’s motto, “virtue, liberty and independence.”

“We include everyone by including the other mottos,” Mr. Kress said. “I don’t think anyone would object to ’e pluribus unum’ in our council chambers or ’virtue, liberty and independence.’ ”

Attendee Audrey Glickman of Greenfield emailed council Wednesday asking it to vote down the bill and had previously spoken against it at council meetings.

"It's more against religion than for religion," she said after the meeting. "It excludes people."

Ms. Means said that her greatest hurdle was Thursday's committee, and that she is confident that with the amendment, the bill will be approved by County Council.

Lexi Belculfine: or 412-263-1878. Twitter: @LexiBelc.

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