MOBILE, Ala. (WALA) – FOX10 News is taking a closer look at the debate over the national motto “In God We Trust” being displayed in Government Plaza. The Mobile County Commission approved the measure 2 to 1 in June.
On Thursday, August 8, people both for and against the display addressed the commission again to share the views on the issue. Now, local professors are sharing their perspective.
Dr. John Coker, University of South Alabama philosophy department chair and professor, thinks the debate over the display is good for democracy. He also points out, the topic of separation of church and state is not a new debate in Alabama.
Coker also says, the bigger the display the bigger the chances it could become even more controversial.
“How gigantic is the plaque or whatever it is? Where exactly is it going to be positioned?” he asked.
One example – the 10 Commandments monument placed in the lobby of the Alabama State Judicial Building in 2003. Former Chief Justice Roy Moore helped place the monument in the building.
“He installed a 2.5 ton monument in the most prominent place in the government building, managed with dollars from all state tax payers,” said Coker.
Moore lost his job in 2003 after refusing a federal order to remove it. It was eventually taken down by a court order.
Mobile’s “In God We Trust” display will be paid by private funds, and a government official isn’t at the forefront of the issue. However, Coker said if its size becomes distracting opponents may continue to push back.
“If you planted it right in the main area where you walk into the various courtrooms to go through security or whatever, and it’s like gigantic and you just can’t avoid it… that’s going to be a problem,” said Coker.
One of the men behind the display, John Butler of Gulf Shores, said he wants it displayed in a “prominent” place. But no specific measurements have been released.
University of Mobile Dean on “Church and State”
“The phrase ‘separation of church and state’ is not found in any of our founding documents. It is a phrase used by Thomas Jefferson during his presidency, in a letter he wrote to an association of Virginia Baptists. Contrary to popular belief, Jefferson was not anti-religion. Four different Christian congregations met on weekends on Capital Hill while Jefferson was president.”
-Dr. Doug Wilson, dean of the School of Christian Ministries at the University of Mobile
University of South Alabama Professor on Lawsuit Success
“Putting the motto ‘In God We Trust’ on display in Mobile’s Government Plaza clearly violates the First Amendment. No doubt about that. Since the motto already exists on our currency, however, it would be impossible for the atheists to win their case in a court of law.”
-Dr. Ethan Fishman, who specializes in political philosophy, American political thought at USA
University of Mobile Director on the Motto
“The slogan has a long-standing history in our country and its use within Mobile’s Government Plaza has a clear and broad precedent, thus making it appropriate. I think individuals have become too broad in this debate. Instead, individuals on both sides of the argument need to stay focused upon the specific slogan being discussed and if it is appropriate to display this slogan within a government facility. The usage of the United State’s official motto is the argument.”
-Dr. Joe Savage, executive director of the School of Christian Ministries at the University of Mobile