Motto to go on city vehicles

Altoona OKs adding ‘In God We Trust’ decals to fleet

In a split vote, against the advice of the interim city manager and despite objections from two residents, City Council on Wed­nesday approved local veterinarian Matt Stachmus’ request to affix “In God We Trust” decals to city vehicles.

Stachmus proposed the decals several months ago, came to another meeting to urge council to act and reiterated his request Wednesday, providing favorable petition signatures and examples of God’s name in patriotic songs, the Pledge of Allegiance and on government buildings — while apologizing for prior stridency, saying he’s passionate about the national motto.

Mayor Matt Pacifico and Council­man Bill Neugebauer voted against the decals.

While he is Christian, believes the country is founded on Christian principles and supports an “In God We Trust” plaque that Stachmus previously persuaded council to affix to the front of the meeting dais, yet, “as stewards of city government, I think we need to draw a line,” Pacifico said.

Pacifico didn’t like what seems to be a private citizen’s attempt to “dictate,” thought it set an unfortunate precedent and could lead to a legal challenge that could be costly.

Neugebauer doesn’t object to the decals but worries about possible litigation, he said after the meeting.

Manager Peter Marshall said he objected, but he didn’t elaborate.

Council didn’t feel “coerced” by Stachmus, said Councilman Erik Cagle, adding that he appreciates the veterinarian’s passion.

While “In God We Trust” isn’t overtly Christian, it’s religious and is thus “non-inclusive” of agnostics and atheists, said resident Carey Pierce, who suggested that “E Pluribus Unum,” Latin for “one from many,” would be preferable.

A prior reference by Coun­cilman Dave Butterbaugh to “liberal wackos” who might object to Stachmus’ proposal shows that Butterbaugh may be too biased to serve on council, Pierce said. Butterbaugh replied that he serves people of all persuasions equally.

Stachmus’ request is not really about the national motto, but is part of a nationwide campaign to turn the U.S. step-by-step over decades into a religious theocracy, resident Steve Elfelt said.

He has never heard of such a campaign, Stachmus said after the meeting.

Asked whether he would like the U.S. to become a theocracy, he asked, “Are you serious?”

He’s a supporter of the Constitution, he said.

People have different be­liefs about God, and the national motto is amenable to all those beliefs, Council­woman Christie Jordan said.

“I don’t think it excludes anyone,” she said.

Mirror Staff Writer William Kibler is at 949-7038.