KINGSTON—The Roane County Commission voted on Monday to defer a resolution to the property committee that would place signs that say “In God We Trust” on the County Courthouse in Kingston.
The vote to defer was closely split, at 8-7. Commissioners James Brummett, Ray Cantrell, Bobby Collier, Randy Ellis, Jerry Goddard, Chris Johnson, and Fred Tedder all voted not to defer the resolution.
Many commissioners who voted against deferment argued that deferral would only delay the process further. Others, however, felt that the issue should have gone through the committee before the commission had any say in the matter.
Ellis, who filed the resolution in favor of the signs, said that the resolution would reach the committee either way, and that the committee would have the final say in the design and placement of the signs.
“Roane County is deep in its faith,” he said. “Not one of my constituents…has come to me against this.”
Despite the religious majority of the county, critics fear that the signs might lead to arguments about separation of church and state.
“I can’t vote for this, and it’s not because I ain’t a Christian,” said Commissioner George Nelson. “I still think you’re just opening up a can of worms, and that’s my opinion.”
Other commissioners stressed that the resolution was actually about patriotism, as the phrase is a national motto.
County Attorney Tom McFarland assured the Commission that he didn’t believe there would be a constitutional issue, but he did agree that the county should “utilize the committee system.”
If the property committee approves the resolution, it will return to the Roane County Commission.
A similar move passed in Anderson County last year after much debate and a handful of meetings, and “In God We Trust” signs now hang above the four entrances at the Anderson County Courthouse in Clinton. The man who spearheaded the drive in Anderson County said he was inspired by a similar drive in Putnam County.