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The words “In God We Trust” will soon be affixed to both sides of the Roane County Courthouse.
Commissioners amended a resolution on Monday to put the phrase over the north and south entrances to the building.
“It’s on all of our currency, and a lot of courthouses across the country and the state of Tennessee,” Commissioner Ray Cantrell said. “Why not here?”
Commissioner Randy Ellis originally filed the resolution for the May 12 meeting, but commissioners voted 8-7 that night to defer it to the property committee. The committee met in June and voted to send the resolution back to the full commission, which passed it by a 13-1 vote on Monday.
“I’m glad it went back to the commission and passed,” Ellis said.
Commissioner Ron Berry said there was some confusion in the public about what the commission did at the May meeting.
“The vote that was taken to send it to committee somehow got transformed that people were against the sign,” he said. “I think some commissioners even got chastised to the point that they had already voted against the sign, when in fact, we voted to send it to committee.”
During last month’s property committee meeting, Commissioner Steve Kelley professed to being an atheist and said he was against “In God We Trust” going on the courthouse.
He was the only commissioner who voted against the resolution on Monday.
“It’s not easy to be in the minority position, and that’s why it’s critical that the government stay neutral,” Kelley said. “Does being a non-believer make me less of a citizen? Do my beliefs count less because I don’t happen to believe in God?”
Several people spoke during the public comment portion of the meeting, including Kelley’s wife, Renee.
“I’m a Christian, and I try my best to raise my children in a Christian home,” she said. “But the way that he’s been treated by some people since he mentioned he was an atheist has been very unChristian-like.”
Berry apologized to Kelley for the criticism he’s endured.
“I don’t agree with his beliefs, but I certainly want to give him as much freedom to believe,” Berry said. “We fought for him in the Marine Corps just as much as we did for everybody else, so he deserves that right.”
The resolution originally called for “In God We Trust” to be placed over the north entrance of the courthouse and in the commission meeting room. The amendment on Monday was to also put the words over the south entrance. The north entrance is the only one used by the public.
The material for the sign above the entrances will be black granite with the words “In God We Trust” written in gold. The sign for the commission room will be cast bronze.
Ellis said no taxpayer money will be used and the effort will be funded entirely through private donations.
He said the fundraising effort would start in earnest on Tuesday.
“It’s going to roughly cost about $4,200 for all three,” he said.
Anyone interested in making a donation can contact Ellis at 335-7981.