BAKERSFIELD, Calif. The mention of God in public places has been challenged in California, but in the state's Bible Belt, some local governments embrace the name.
Bakersfield City Council members held a ceremony in City Hall last night to formally dedicate the words "In God We Trust" mounted above the city seal last week.
City Council member Jacquie Sullivan, a devout Christian who led the motto campaign, said she wanted to return to the nation's early commitment to Christian ideals. Forty-six years ago yesterday, President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed legislation that made the words "In God We Trust" this nation's motto.
"People are misled to think it's against the law to mention God's name in government. The First Amendment is to keep government out of religion, not to keep believers out of government," she said.
Last month, a 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel ruled it was unconstitutional to have students recite the Pledge of Allegiance in school because it contains the words "under God." The lawsuit was filed by an atheist father.
In California's 12th largest city, not everyone agrees with their leaders' decision. Some said placing the motto at Bakersfield City Hall violates the separation of church and state.
Mike Miller, who helped bring together Native Americans, Muslim, Sikhs, Jews, Mormons and Buddhists for the dedication ceremony, said he still opposed the word "God" on a government building. But in America, the majority rules.
"It's a democracy," said Miller.
Other cities in Kern County have followed Bakersfield's lead. Wasco, about 30 miles northwest of Bakersfield, has voted in to place a plaque with "In God We Trust" outside City Hall.
City officials in Delano are researching design and locations for their motto. Officials said donations from local churches and residents would pay for the plaque.