A sign inscribed with the national motto “In God We Trust” was unveiled on the side of a Anderson County courthouse in Oak Ridge on Friday.
It’s the fifth “In God We Trust” sign to be posted on a county courthouse since July in a citizen-led initiative that has prompted a debate over the proper separation of church and state.
Also celebrated during a lunchtime ceremony Friday were a flagpole and memorial to five Anderson County veterans killed in the past decade in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The “In God We Trust” sign unveiled Friday has been installed on the side of the Anderson County General Sessions Court, Division II, in Oak Ridge. The other four signs were placed above each of the four doors at the Anderson County Courthouse in Clinton in July.
The Oak Ridge sign was approved by the Anderson County Commission in April after commissioners agreed, following hours of discussion and five meetings, to place the four signs on the Clinton courthouse. Those four black granite signs are inscribed with the national motto in gold letters above each of the courthouse’s four doors.
“It ought to be over here as well,” Anderson County General Sessions Court Ron Murch said of his request this spring to add a fifth sign to the county courthouse in Oak Ridge.
Some commissioners had concerns about whether the “In God We Trust” signs could subject the county to lawsuits over the proper separation of church and state and whether other “clearly secular” slogans should also be posted on the courthouses. Clinton attorney David Stuart has already filed motions to dismiss charges against two criminal defendants based upon the signs.
The flagpole and the veterans’ memorial celebrated Friday were erected on a small lawn near the main entrance to the courthouse in Oak Ridge. It is the first memorial in the Secret City dedicated to soldiers who gave their lives for our freedoms, said Brad Heun, a veteran of the Iraq war and commander of Oak Ridge Veterans of Foreign Wars.
“They will never be forgotten,” said Leon Jaquet, director of the Anderson County Veterans Office. “Their sacrifices will not be forgotten.”
“This is a historical monument,” said Glenn Morris, father of Daniel Morris, one of the veterans who is honored.
Heun said there is a separate proposal for a more fitting memorial in Oak Ridge to all who have served, but it will need some backing and financial support.
Those who supported the “In God We Trust” signs on Friday continued to challenge those who have objected to placing them on county-owned or leased buildings based on the separation of church and state, pointing out that the separation doctrine is not found in the U.S. Constitution and the national motto is found on the country’s money.
“Our nation was founded, without question, upon the principles that are Christian,” said Stephen Flick, founder of Christian Heritage Fellowship.
“There is God everywhere,” former Oak Ridge Mayor Kathy Moore told about 75 people at Friday’s ceremony. “It needs to be on every building.”
The initiative to install the signs has been led by Oak Ridge businessman Lynn Byrge. He said Anderson County Commissioner Robert McKamey donated $150 to a fund set up by the county for the Oak Ridge sign.
The flagpole was donated by Robert Smith of Atomic City Tool, Byrge said, and the monument, stone, and plaque were paid for using money from an In God We Trust committee.
Byrge said the black “In God We Trust” sign in Oak Ridge is polymer with an aluminum finish, and it is 34” x 92”. It matches the signs already on the building.