October 2015 Church & State | People & Events

In recent months, stickers bearing the words “In God We Trust” have appeared on police cars in several states, including Illinois, Kentucky and North Carolina, leaving critics to wonder about the cause of this troubling church-state trend.

The Washington Post reported in August that the stickers are of an unknown origin, but they seem to be spreading thanks to social media and individuals in some police departments. In Florida, Bay County Sheriff Frank McKeithen said about 30 agencies in the area have adopted the decals. He was inspired to print bumper stickers bearing “In God We Trust” after he received an e-mail that contained the phrase.

“It’s just right now it seems like in our country law enforcement has been painted with a brush that we’re bad guys,” McKeithen told The Post. “So I was trying to think of something that might set a fire to our guys. We want to be proud and we want people to be proud of us, and we know we’re better than how people portray us.”

An anonymous donor paid for the stickers, The Post reported, and McKeithen’s deputies distributed nearly 800 of them to residents.

“You don’t have to be a Chris­tian to trust in God, because you think of all the people in this world that bad things happen to them and at the last moment, they say, ‘Oh God; please God help me,’” McKeithen added.

In Missouri, Stone County Sheriff Doug Rader said he put the “In God We Trust” stickers on cars in his department after learning of them from Green County Sheriff Jim Arnott.

“There has been no better time than now to proudly display our national motto,” Rader told the Stone County Chronicle. “I’m very humbled at the amount of support behind it.”

But not everyone is pleased that the stickers have found their way onto police cars. An organization called The Original Motto Project has offered to provide stickers reading E Pluribus Unum (“Out of Many, One”) in Bonifay, Fla., where the police department has chosen to use “In God We Trust” stickers, the Holmes County Advertiser reported.

“We feel that this phrase will provide an inclusive statement to the citizens of the city of Bonifay,” group president Robert Ray said.

Others said the religious slogan is problematic on government property.

“Society works better when state and church are kept separate because it creates a fair and equal place for all of us to live,” Wesley Wilson, who organized a protest of the use of the religious motto by the Bonifay Police Department, told the Advertiser. “The saying ‘In God We Trust’ that has been put on public property violates that….Law enforcement is here to serve everyone, and that saying (isn’t representative) of all who live here.”