The motto “In God We Trust” on the dais of the St. Peters Board of Aldermen chambers drew criticism on March 22 from a woman who had spoken out earlier against the display of the motto in the Wentzville City Council chambers.
Her comments, however, were opposed by a number of residents who strongly supported the use of the motto.
Sally Hunt, a Maryland Heights resident, came before St. Peters aldermen during the public comment portion of their March 22 meeting. She had spoken at a packed Wentzville City Council meeting on Feb. 28. As they did in St. Peters, her comments drew a negative response from residents at that meeting.
Hunt said St. Peters has all kinds of residents, many of different religious beliefs and some with no religious beliefs at all. “But it [religion] shouldn’t be relevant,” Hunt said. “The only reason we’re having this conversation is because you have a declaration that is a lie. It is a lie because not everybody who lives here not every person trusts in a God, whether you like it or not.”
The motto, she said, is a statement that leaves out many residents. She said city officials should be shamed by a statement that indicates that there is something wrong for not believing in a God that also promotes the “superiority” of some people over others. Elected officials represent everyone no matter what their religion or beliefs are, she said. The statement is unconstitutional and not acceptable, she said.
When the three minutes allotted for those making public comments were up, Mayor Len Pagano told Hunt, “Your time is up.”
“You should be ashamed,” she said as she left the podium. Pagano had spoken in favor of the motto at the Wentzville meeting.
Aldermen and mayors typically don’t respond to comments during the public comment portion of the meeting; however, Alderman Donald Aytes [Ward 4] said, “I want to answer her” after Hunt was done. Pagano said, “no,” and the comment period continued.
The aldermen’s chambers weren’t packed with people but five other residents spoke in support of St. Peter’s use of the motto.
Cathy Dunaway said she was a Christian and not ashamed to say that. She said the county was built on Christian values. “I would like to see ‘In God We Trust’ remain as a motto,” Dunaway said. “I would like to see God kept in our daily lives.” She added that the motto should be continued to be used by the city in its documents.
Resident John Gabler said he appreciated what Hunt said but he disagreed with her. Gabler said religion is “a force for good in our society.”
“We don’t have to go far to see hospitals, schools and social service agencies that are deeply rooted in a faith tradition,” Gabler said. Faith in God is probably shared by most public officials, he said. The motto also may be an accurate reflection of what people believe in the community but “not too strong to disenfranchise those who don’t share a belief in God,” Gabler said.
Chelsea Auton, who said she moved back to St. Peters as an adult, said, “I feel the ‘In God We Trust’ emblem is an accurate reflection of the beliefs of St. Peters.”
Mike Oheron said he was putting out a box in the front of the room for those who don’t want the motto used. The motto he noted is used on currency. “If it’s good enough for our country, it’s good enough for St. Peters,” he said.
Pagano and the aldermen didn’t discuss the use of the motto at the meeting. However, Aytes had a comment for Hunt, noting that many veterans under fire during World War II were particularly religious. “There are no atheists in foxholes,” Aytes said. He was quickly cut off by Pagano.