Just two weeks after the Haven City Council voted unanimously to remove “In God, We Trust” decals from the back of Haven Police vehicles, the Haven Community Building swelled with residents at the Monday, May 16, regular city council meeting.
More than 30 Haven residents attended the meeting, with seven participating in public comment. Throughout the meeting, the crowd cheered and booed during various conversations.
Haven resident Joshua Sikes opened up public comment by calling on a vote of no confidence with the present community members, which he thought would require every member of the Haven City Council to step down.
“At this time, I call a vote of no confidence for every member that voted to support the removal of In God We Trust from all city vehicles. Do I have a second?” Sikes said.
Another resident seconded the motion, which caused more than half of the residents in the room to stand in favor of a vote of no confidence.
The Haven City attorney, Jennifer Hill, informed the council that a vote of no confidence did not hold weight and asked Sikes to return to his seat.
After Sikes returned to his seat, Haven resident Mary Andreson stood to address the council.
She began by telling the council the history of the “In God, We Trust” motto and how in 1956, Dwight D. Eisenhower declared the statement the national motto.
“It simply says God, and you can choose as a free American to make that God whichever God you choose it. The same model can be upheld continuously by circuit courts in which their rulings,” Andreson said.
After concluding her public comment, Andreson approached Haven mayor Adam Wright with a plaque that included the phrase.
She asked that Wright place it in City Hall, as a reminder of the town’s citizens.
Six other residents stood to share their opinions on removing the motto from the back of vehicles, including previous Haven Police Chief Cole Rush.
Rush left the Haven Police Department in early 2018 and called the meeting a “circus.”
“I’m not going to talk to the council because that’s not my audience here,” Rush said. “None of you come to council meetings regularly except maybe five or six. Half of you probably couldn’t tell me the names of the individual council members.”
Rush told residents about his 17-year career in law enforcement and told residents about multiple “nasty” letters and emails he received during the two weeks since the initial vote.
“Haven is a nice town, I’ve lived here for 10 years, and I am embarrassed by this,” Rush said. “This is all your doing. Show up and vote, take a civics lesson, and learn how government works. Participate in democracy and quit complaining — if you’re not going to vote when it’s time to vote, don’t complain about the people that get elected.”
After 45 minutes of public comment, the city council meeting returned to its regular plan, and at the end, Wright asked the council for a new vote on the subject.
Wright told the council of how he and the rest of the council members received “countless emails” and hundreds of letters, of which he said two were in favor of the decision, but they were not from Haven residents.
He told the council of the events that led to placing the decals on the back of the police department’s vehicles, which one of the officers purchased to put on the police truck and asked their immediate supervisor permission to place on the car.
“I’d like to see a motion on the table to have that put back on because the community has spoken,” Wright said. “Do I have a motion to re-establish In God, We Trust on the back of the patrol vehicles?”
Councilmember Mark Robinson first motioned to discuss the matter without the public present privately or in an executive meeting. Still, Wright encouraged him that public pressure should not influence his decision.
He asked that if another police officer looked to put another type of phrase or motto about another religion on the back of the vehicles, it should be allowed, which council member Austin agreed with and seconded the motion.
The council turned to Hill and asked about the legality of the subject, she told them it was not illegal to have the decals on the vehicles, nor was it illegal to remove them.
“It’s completely up to the council to decide,” Hill said.
Wright then looked for a vote, which council members Sandra Williams and Kylie Rush voted against. Council members Robinson, Borden and Christopher Scott voted in favor, causing a 3-2 vote to reinstate the phrase.
I’m going to put my vote forward with the understanding that it should be all-inclusive, so if the day comes somebody wants to put something else that doesn’t match that religion, they have the freedom to do it as well,” Borden said.
As reported in The Hutchinson News.