ST. PETERS, Mo. (AP) - A suburban St. Louis town is now part of a national movement to display "In God We Trust" at local government sites.
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch (http://bit.ly/12wrbGH ) reports that raised letters spelling out the national motto will be installed in a few weeks at St. Peters Municipal Court, the city's aldermanic meeting room and three other city buildings.
Mayor Len Pagano hopes other nearby cities will follow suit. St. Peters is believed to be the second municipality in the St. Louis region to join the effort. Sullivan did so last year.
"It's something the community at large thinks is the right thing to do," Pagano said.
Bakersfield, Calif., councilwoman Jacquie Sullivan has been promoting the idea since 2002. She says she wants to show respect for the nation's heritage and is not trying to promote a particular denomination or religion.
"It's intended to include anyone that believes in a higher power," said Sullivan, a Baptist. "It demonstrates a commitment to the values our country was founded upon."
Pagano, a Catholic, said displaying the motto is a way of showing patriotism. Not everyone agrees.
The Freedom from Religion Foundation, a Wisconsin-based organization representing atheists and agnostics, said the motto violates the principle of separation of church and state.
"It certainly puts God in our government, and we have a godless constitution," said Annie Laurie Gaylor, the organization's co-president. "Governments shouldn't be telling us whether to believe or not."
Court challenges to the motto have repeatedly failed, said Charles Haynes, an attorney with the First Amendment Center at Vanderbilt University. A 2010 case upheld keeping "In God We Trust" on coins and currency. The court said the phrase is ceremonial and patriotic, not religious.
Congress designated "In God We Trust" as the national motto in 1956. The phrase first appeared on U.S. coins in 1864.
Pagano decided to push for the motto to be displayed after seeing an information booth set up by Sullivan's group at a National League of Cities conference last fall.
Most other Missouri governments displaying the motto are in the southwest part of the state.
Information from: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, http://www.stltoday.com