BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO/CNN) - The words “In God We Trust” are causing controversy in a California community.
Pastor Angelo Frazier, of Riverlakes Community Church, is asking the Bakersfield City Council to put the nation’s motto on the city’s police department vehicles.
Bakersfield residents spoke out Wednesday night as city council heard people for and against displaying the nation’s motto on police vehicles after the pastor’s proposal.
"My concern is that if we don't move forward in this, then I believe one day, that 'In God We Trust' will come down,” the pastor said.
"Once again, I oppose adding ‘In God We Trust’ to Bakersfield police vehicles and I also see ‘In God We Trust’ in the chambers and I don’t feel welcomed here,” said Jennifer Bloomquist, founder of the Atheist Society of Kern.
Frazier has lived in the city for close to 30 years and has been a volunteer chaplain with the BPD for almost 20.
“One of the things I see a consistency, because we have it in our courts and everything, police officers are an extension of our courts,” Frazier said.
The idea is not a new one.
In 2002, Councilwoman Jacquie Sullivan led Bakersfield to vote yes on displaying the nation’s motto inside the council chambers.
In 2004, she organized - In God We Trust America - a nonprofit encouraging elected officials in cities and counties across the country to follow Bakersfield’s lead.
“Bakersfield, California, is the founding city of this very active campaign that’s going across the country,” Sullivan said. “There’s a new interest and appreciation for our national motto.”
Over the past few years, several law enforcement agencies across the country have voted to display decals and bumpers stickers carrying the motto on cars driven by police officers, sheriff deputies and firefighters.
Most recently, Delano, Calif., became the first city in the state to vote yes. However many say displaying “In God We Trust” infringes on the First Amendment.
“It’s an inherently religious statement and not every single one of our police officers is religious,” said Bloomquist. “They don’t believe in a single God. They might believe in a Goddess or multiple Gods or none at all.”
Sullivan said the vote will be on June’s agenda. It remains to be seen how the council will vote.