The motion by Republican Guilford County Commissioner James Upchurch to have 10 county buildings inscribed with the words, “In God We Trust” did not pass at the Thursday, Aug. 17 Board of Commissioners meeting.
But it did get a whole lot of county citizens riled up and it also gave several commissioners a chance to offer their opinions on the way the process that led to the no vote had played out.
The commissioners meeting began with seven speakers from the floor, several of whom were there to speak in adamant opposition to the move that they said would be costly and divisive.
One man said that the action, estimated to cost about $40,000, was divisive since everyone in Guilford County does not believe in God, some religions have a God but do not use the name “God,” and others consider it a sin to even write out the name of God – much less display it on ten county buildings.
In response to the public’s complaints about the cost, Upchurch amended the motion to state that it would be paid for through private donations. However, that still didn’t help the controversial motion gain support.
At first it wasn’t clear that Upchurch’s motion would even get a second. However, Republican County Commissioner Pat Tillman did second it. The final vote was 2 to 6, with the only yes votes coming from Upchurch and Tillman.
Commissioner Alan Perdue, the only other Republican on the board, was not at the meeting but did participate by phone early in the evening. Perdue, however, was not on the phone line at the time of the vote.
During the discussion, the commissioners interestingly spoke more about the process than the motion itself.
Tillman said just before the vote that, even though the motion looked likely to fail, the debate they were having that night was an example of how Democracy should work. Tillman said he appreciated Chairman Skip Alston putting the item on the agenda and also the fact that Upchurch had done the preparatory work with county staff just as he should have before making a motion of that type.
Alston also used the debate to give the public some insight on the process of county government at work.
He said that Upchurch first brought the motion to the board with no cost estimate attached and, the chairman said, he instructed Upchurch to bring it back with cost information after consulting with staff.
Alston said that, when Upchurch stated to the Rhino Times earlier in the week that the move to put the inscriptions on county buildings was a gesture toward a return to traditional values, Upchurch had made the motion political and had lost support because of that.
Commissioners Kay Cashion and Carlvena Foster both said before the vote that they had received a lot of emails and other communications from county residents – and not one of those communications had been in support of putting the inscription on buildings.