The recently placed motto “In God We Trust” on one of the Sheriff Office’s patrol cars.
(Photo: Facebook)

The Hillsdale County Sheriff’s Office recently placed the national motto “In God We Trust” on its vehicles, raising questions from local citizens on whether local governments should incorporate religion in their operations.

Sheriff Tim Parker said it was one of his priorities upon entering office to place the motto on HCSO vehicles, and that it was ultimately his decision.

“We didn’t go around asking for votes or asking what everyone thought,” Parker said.

Parker said the funding for this project came from a source outside the sheriff’s office who wished to remain anonymous.

“It didn’t come from within the department,” he said. “So I don’t see why there’s a problem.”

Regardless of the origin of the funding, some citizens say they are concerned the newly placed mottos violate the separation of church and state.

“In a country that espouses religious freedom, I find this disconcerting,” Hillsdale resident Natasha Crall said. “Especially when it is coming from positions of authority.”

Parker does not see it as an endorsement for a specific religion, however, since “In God We Trust” is the national motto.

The phrase appears on coins and currency as well as many state license plates.

“It astounds me that people are getting upset about our national motto,” he said. “It’s part of our patriotism. Do we want to be patriots of our nation or not?”

Regardless, Crall said, this decision disrespects the minorities HCSO represents.

“It makes me wonder what [Parker] thinks about other groups he’s vowed to protect,” she said.

According to Parker, the motto does not change the way HCSO serves and protects its citizens. It is a representation of the officers’ beliefs that a higher being is watching out for them, he said.

Hillsdale resident Ryan Radabaugh agreed.

“The phrase doesn’t have an effect on our everyday lives. If the officers feel more comfortable in the performance of their duties by having a little extra protection from four simple words, then that’s a win for everyone,” Radabaugh said in a Facebook message. “With the increasing violence against police across the country, if four simple words give them a little peace of mind then have at it.”

Radabaugh and Crall both said Parker should have consulted members of the community before making the decision, however.

“Instead of acting on a whim, they should have sought public opinion before acting on it,” Radabaugh said.

Councilman Adam Stockford agreed the decision was a bold move, but said he believes the community should give Parker the benefit of the doubt.

“He was elected by the constituents of Hillsdale County,” Stockford said. “I trust his judgment.”

The backlash to this decision is one of many recent attempts across the nation to remove references to God, Christianity, or religion from government property. The Oklahoma State Supreme Court ruled in 2015 that the state must remove the six-foot monument of the Ten Commandments from its capital building, noting it violated the state’s constitutional ban against the use of public funds or property to benefit a religion.

Sacramento attorney Michael Newdow filed a lawsuit in November 2005 against the U.S. government in an attempt to remove the motto “In God We Trust” from all national currency, claiming the national motto is unconstitutional.

Crall agrees and said the national motto represents only one religion, which she said is discrimination.

“What you do on Sunday has nothing to do with your job,” Crall said.

  • Debra Burnsworth

    Another government entity that is showing total disrespect for the citizens of Hillsdale who are not god believers. They could have used a motto/saying that showed equal respect for ALL citizens, like “We the People” or “E Pluribus Unum”, both of which unites and respects all citizens. Instead they chose a motto that excludes some citizens, causes dissension and divides citizens. So sad …..

    • Knower

      Although I agree with you on principal, as far as you went, I still see problems with YOUR suggestions which could be as disconcerting to some as “In God We Trust” is to you.
      For example, if they had used “We the People”, some who have a difficult time qualifying what “people” means may be disappointed. I know several “people” who have accused others of being inhuman, therefore not worthy of the benefit of being people.
      As to “E Pluribus Unum”, how would you address the displeasure of the Thracians or Macedonians among us at having a Latin phrase on our patrol vehicles?
      So silly.

  • It has come to our attention that it is the intention of this government agency to prominently display the motto In God We Trust. We would like to make our dissent known and offer an alternative. First, however, let me introduce myself
    I am Robert Ray, Executive Director of The Original Motto Project, a nonprofit organization that advocates for the prominent display of the Latin motto E Pluribus Unum (From Many, One) or We the People from the Constitution as one that represents the truly inclusive nature of American society. Our message is one of inclusiveness: it takes all points of view, and sometimes the quarrels between those competing viewpoints, to make America the richly pluralistic society that it is.
    In God We Trust, though it is currently enshrined by law as the official motto of the United States, is inherently divisive. 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). Furthermore, it is an unfortunate fact that many government agents and agencies who display the motto believe it to be an overt endorsement of Christian belief. When used in such a context, In God We Trust violates the most sacred of American principles: the separation of church and state.
    E Pluribus Unum, we believe, is a motto that encapsulates the variety of experience and belief in this great country. It first appeared on the proposal for the seal of the United States in 1776, where it represented the union of colonies, who, despite deeply rooted differences amongst themselves, united to throw off the shackles of oppressive and arbitrary governance. The seal prominently displaying E Pluribus Unum, was approved by congress in 1782.
    We the People are the first words written on the document that officially formed the united states of America. Those words like E Pluribus Unum, became the glue that has held this nation together though war and peace. They are the epitome of what our founders wanted for this nation.

    While you may still choose, of course, to display the motto In God We Trust, we here at The Original Motto Project humbly ask that you consider a compromise that can satisfy both viewpoints on this issue: mount E Pluribus Unum or We the People in an equally prominent and honorable place alongside In God We Trust.

    Robert Ray
    The Original Motto Project

  • Brien

    Why can you not stop trying to force your religion onto everybody else?
    That is no different to a dictatorship as you would have under a theocracy.
    You are forcing all others to bow to your specific and particular religion/mythology.
    We live in a democratic republic under a Constitution which by definition is supposed to defend all peoples’ rights, not just the majority.
    Why do you feel justified in abrogating other people’s rights?
    These stickers/signs, on government vehicles and facilities, are a clear discriminatory act against me, and my family!
    These stickers/signs exclude a whole segment of American citizens from the community.
    They are divisive, and the offices using them consciously know that this is a divisive act, and are purposely continuing to offend the citizens in their communities.
    Are these the acts of true Americans? Putting your religion above the Constitution and the rights of supposedly fellow Americans?

  • Pablito

    So it was one of Parker’s priorities upon entering office to place a divisive Christian motto on all his sheriff cars?

  • Ellsworth_Toohey

    This is the same Sheriff, who while a candidate violated the Hatch act

  • “‘It didn’t come from within the department,” he said. ‘So I don’t see why there’s a problem.'”

    Maybe because it’s a theocratic reactionary motto that came about from the Red Scare in the 50’s and promotes the Judeo-Christian worldview through government rather than letting the individual decide what to believe, which is a violation of the First Amendment? That ring a bell, Sheriff?

  • Frankenputer

    Do they know who vandalized the Squad Cars with religious graffiti? When can the Citizens of Hillsdale expect arrests?