Flags along Main Street in Porterville proudly state the city's current, unofficial motto, "100 Years of the Good Life." Now, city leaders are hoping to change that to "In God We Trust."
Porterville Mayor Pro Tem, Felipe Martinez, says "It's not specific to a deity, it's not specific to a religion. This is God in general."
Porterville residents will vote on the motto change- named Measure "H"- in the June Primary. If it's passed, the phrase could be added to the city emblem, and other city properties. Voters seem to be split on whether the new motto would be good for Porterville.
Porterville resident Rosie Muro says, "I think that would be very wonderful as they pass by to see "In God We Trust." We need something positive in this world and that's positive."
Tony Speer, a Porterville Resident, disagrees. He says, "I don't really feel it's necessary. I don't really think it's something they should get into. I don't know why they're trying to do it or what they're trying to prove with it."
As many as 30 California cities now display the motto in their city hall, council chamber or some other prominent location.
This isn't the first time religion has sparked controversy in Porterville. In 2005, proclaimed atheist Patrick Greene threatened to sue the city if a 30-foot cross wasn't taken out of Murray Park. Greene said the cross violated the constitution.
Porterville officials aren't waiting for the results of the June 3rd vote. The city has already designed this new flag with the motto, which sits in City Hall chambers. Martinez says the motto would not violate first amendment rights because the decision is up to the voters. He says, "We're not forcing them to do anything. Under the Constitution of the United States we give people the freedom to choose."
If Measure "H" passes, the city council will decide if "In God We Trust" will be placed on any city flags, fire trucks, police vehicles and more. Measure "H" needs a simple majority to pass.