Motto plaque posted in chambers

When local veterinarian Matthew Stachmus came to City Council in August offering to provide a plaque bearing the U.S. motto “In God We Trust” to be posted “prominently” in council chambers, city solicitor Larry Clapper said he ought to research the legality of such a posting before the city approved it.

Clapper did so, found there to be no problem, and a plaque is now affixed to the front of the wide desk behind which council members sit for meetings.

The U.S. Supreme Court has found that posting “In God We Trust” does not violate the constitutional principle of separation of church and state, as that motto is on our currency and is “used throughout the government,” Clapper said.

The separation principle flows from the First Amendment to the Constitution, which states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

The motto, embossed on a plaque, runs on a single line in letters large enough to be seen clearly by audience members. Below and a little to the side of the plaque is a small plaque stating that Stachmus provided the larger one as a gift to commemorate his Guatemala-born wife, Ana, becoming an American citizen in 2016.

Stachmus and city officials conferred on the design before Stachmus ordered the plaque to be produced, said Michael Haire, a council member until Wednesday, when the plaque was visible to meeting attendees for the first time during council’s 2018 reorganization.

While Clapper and City Manager Marla Marcinko initially expressed reservations about the legality of posting the plaque, council members were accepting from the beginning.

“I have no issues with it,” said Mayor Matt Pacifico at the time.

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