JEFFERSON-County taxpayers will foot the bill for new “In God We Trust” lettering on the exterior of the Ashe County Courthouse, and could provide the money to place the motto on other county owned properties.
For the courthouse, that’ll cost roughly $1,200. If you include the Ashe County Law Enforcement Center into the calculation, the cost grows to $2,400.
That news follows a unanimous vote by the Ashe County Board of Commissioners Monday, that shifted the way those exterior letters would be paid for – from private donations – to public dollars, and opened up the possibility of placing the phrase on all the county owned buildings.
If the county’s six school properties are included in the estimate, the cost could grow to $9,600 – though Ashe County Manager Sam Yearick said that idea hasn’t currently been mentioned by commissioners.
“The only buildings that have been talked about so far is the courthouse and the law enforcement center,” Yearick said. “Though (commissioners) could put the lettering on all the buildings if they wanted to.”
Yearick said he likely won’t need to dip into the county’s fund balance to place the lettering. He said county maintenance funds could likely cover the entire cost.
Private group on board
Earlier this year, Rick Lanier, co-founder and vice chairman of the U.S. Motto Action Committee, invited commissioners to join other North Carolina counties and cities who now place “In God We Trust” on the exterior of government properties.
Lanier served as a Davidson County Commissioner from 1998-2002, and co-founded the U.S. Motto Action Committee in 2002. That’s the same year Davidson County voted to display “In God We Trust,” on their buildings.
That was a move the American Civil Liberties Union moved to block, which was upheld through a federal appeals court. The U.S. Motto Action Committee formed as a result of the legal battle, and the U.S. Supreme Court later rejected the appeal, which gave Davidson the right to keep the phrase on its buildings.
Since then, Lanier’s committee has campaigned other government leaders to place the phrase on their local properties.
From Private to Public
On April 20, the Ashe County Board of Commissioners unanimously agreed to the idea, according to Commissioner Larry Rhodes – with an important caveat.
“When Lanier came to make the proposal – to put ‘In God We Trust’ on the building with our permission – it was supposed to be paid for 100 percent by funds (Lanier’s group) had available,” Rhodes said following Monday’s meeting. “Our maintenance folks would put it on the building, but that group was going to pay for the cost of the lettering.”
Since then, Rhodes said commissioners learned that Lanier’s group didn’t have the money on hand to finish the project, and local churches had been contacted about donating money to place the lettering on the courthouse.
“That was not what I voted on, that we should go back and ask for donations to put that on there,” Rhodes said. “Since we all agreed to it unanimously in the first place, bottom line that needs to be paid for out of our fund. I just felt strongly about that. I didn’t ask for volunteers to contribute to it.”
Rhodes said commissioners also decided, should the call be made to put the lettering on any other county owned property, commissioners should use the county’s money to do that as well.
“In God We Trust” was adopted as the National Motto of the United States July 30, 1956 by the Dwight D. Eisenhower administration and the motto was reaffirmed on November 1, 2011 by the U.S. House of Representatives. The 2011 resolution encourages the placement of the motto on government buildings, courthouses, and school classrooms.
The phrase has also appeared on paper currency since 1957.
Reach Adam Orr at 336-489-3058 or Twitter.com/AdamROrr.