Target: The North Richland Hills, Texas City Council and North Richland Hills Mayor Oscar Trevino
Goal: Do not violate the Constitution by prominently displaying “In God We Trust” on the new city hall building.
On March 14, 2016, the North Richland Hills City Council voted to discriminate against thousands of the city’s residents by passing a resolution to place the motto “In God We Trust” on the new city hall building. The decision, which violates the First Amendment rights of many North Richland Hills residents, was made without letting concerned citizens in attendance voice their opinions and grievances before the council’s vote. Mayor Oscar Trevino twice silenced citizens in attendance while he told the city council why he supported the display.
The sole city councilman who voted against the resolution, Scott Turnage, questioned why the North Richland Hills City Council even took up the issue, saying “city hall is intended to be utilized by people of all faiths, even by people who have no faith at all” and that he is “concerned what message this sends to those people or even an employee of the city who may be agnostic or even an atheist.” He continued, stating that he was more concerned that “In God We Trust” could divide the community while questioning what the city government hoped to achieve by passing the resolution.
Incidentally, during a national League of Cities conference, Mayor Trevino met with Jacquie Sullivan, founder of In God We Trust, Inc., a California-based nonprofit that encourages governments across the United States to prominently display “In God We Trust” publicly.
North Richland Hills resident Randy Worth spoke to local media about the decision, telling reporters that he “immediately [felt] discriminated against,” that he doesn’t feel comfortable and feels excluded. Atheist residents have called the decision “Christian bullying.”
Dear Mayor Trevino and members of the North Richland Hills City Council,
The decision to prominently display the motto “In God We Trust” on the new city hall building will alienate many North Richland Hills residents. Furthermore, religious promotion on a government institution violates the Constitutional rights of North Richland Hills residents who do not believe in a supreme being or deity. It is with this in mind that we urge you not to follow through with the resolution to place “In God We Trust” on the new city hall building. By abandoning the plan, you will keep North Richland Hills City Hall an inclusive place where all North Richland Hills residents can feel comfortable conducting business with the city.
It is important for city residents to have a positive relationship with their city officials and leaders and the best way to make sure that happens is to keep public facilities — such as a city hall — conducive to everyone. While we understand that tensions are high given the current national climate regarding the role of religion in government, the religious beliefs of elected government officials do not supersede the Constitutional protections of the people they govern.
Keeping all public facilities “secular” environments helps to alleviate anxieties on both sides of the argument. It is your responsibility as government officials to alleviate those anxieties, not perpetuate them.
[Your Name Here]
Photo Credit: Smarty9108