Mitchell OKs ‘In God We Trust’ display; one council member dissents

MITCHELL, S.D. -- The Mitchell City Council spent much of Monday's meeting at City Hall weighing the decision to approve a resolution to allow the motto "In God We Trust" to be displayed in Council Chambers.

MITCHELL, S.D. -- The Mitchell City Council spent much of Monday’s meeting at City Hall weighing the decision to approve a resolution to allow the motto “In God We Trust” to be displayed in Council Chambers.

The council approved the motto with a 7-1 vote, but Councilman Mel Olson took the opportunity to discuss what he believed to be a potentially divisive motto and called the display a mistake.

“On a day when religious intolerance has been expressed by people running for the highest office in the land, I just don’t think that we should take an action that could be viewed by people who do not share our religious beliefs as an action of intolerance,” Olson said.

Olson did not reference the presidential candidate by name while arguing against the resolution, but earlier on Monday businessman and top Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump proposed blocking the immigration of all Muslims to the United States.

But Olson was the lone voice in opposition of the resolution in a room with local religious leaders scattered throughout. And those religious leaders offered their support to the council.


First to speak in support of the resolution was Rev. Kevin Carroll, of the Grace Reformed Church. Carroll called the resolution to display the motto an affirmation of a collective faith of a vast majority of Mitchell residents.

Next to speak was Rev. Ben Payne, who gave the invocation before this week’s council meeting. Payne also encouraged the council’s support of the resolution.

“If we are people concerned about offense when we’re leading, we run into a situation where we never accomplish anything of consequence,” Payne said.

Carroll and Payne were followed by Rev. Keith Nash, of Mitchell Wesleyan Church, and Rev. Tim Stafford, of Faith Missionary Church, who also supported the motto.

Between Payne and Nash’s pleas for the council to support the motto, Olson made one last-ditch effort to share his opinion in reference to the city’s pre-meeting Pledge of Allegiance and invocation.

“As the mayor pointed out, we already pledge, we already pray, it makes me wonder if in fact we’re insecure of our religious beliefs that we have to say it over and over again,” Olson said.

Although most of the people who spoke at the meeting were supportive of the resolution, the City Council did receive some opposition in an email before the meeting.

Robert Ray, of The Original Motto Project based out of Washington, urged the council to display the motto “E Pluribus Unum,” which means “From Many, One.” Ray agreed with Olson, calling the motto divisive, but also claiming the display of “In God We Trust” violates the separation of church and state.


If the city decided to move forward with “In God We Trust,” Ray recommended it also display “E Pluribus Unum.” The council did not vote on the other motto.

During the meeting, none of the seven council members in support of the project spoke, but Council President Jeff Smith shared his thoughts after the meeting.

“It seems as though the minority tends to be loud and get their message out, so now I think it’s time for the majority to start stepping forward and relaying what they believe in,” Smith said about what he believes to be Mitchell’s religious majority.

When asked if he considered how secular Mitchell residents might react to the new display in Council Chambers, Toomey was not concerned.

“If they see a sign on the wall, don’t look at it, I guess,” Toomey said.

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