ST. CLAIR SHORES, Mich. – In St. Clair Shores, there’s a debate swirling around “In God We Trust” decals on the city’s police cars.
Some residents have questions and conversations rooted in the idea of a separation between Church and State and that the people didn’t have a say.
St. Clair Shores police Chief Jason Allen said the department started placing the decals on patrol cars in June 2020, under another chief’s leadership, as police were in the spotlight and the pandemic was still happening.
Daniel Farr, a St. Clair Shores resident, described his search for answers regarding the decals as “Hard and confusing.” He said he first saw the “In God We Trust” sticker on the back of a police vehicle in October 2022.
“I lived here my entire life, and I’ve never seen them, and I got interested in how they got there,” said Farr.
Farr contacted city council members, the mayor, the city manager, and the city attorney. He eventually made a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request.
In the documents he received, there was an email from former Chief Todd Woodcox to an officer explaining there would be new, free decals of the national motto on marked cars. If anyone objected to them, it would be removed from the vehicle they were driving.
That officer replied that if he or any other Christians in the department hear complaints, they would address it and reference a Bible verse, Colossians 3:17.
Farr said the situation had become a first amendment rights issue, not just Church and State.
“The right to petition my government for address of grievances, both are at play here, and both of them seem to be ignored,” Farr said. “You tell me it’s secular, but I have proof that the motive is religious. You tell me it’s Democratic and it’s the national motto, but you did it in the dark and didn’t let anybody know about it.”
Allen disagreed but explained he could not speak for Woodcox.
“I don’t know if it was done under wraps,” said Allen. “Decisions are made in this police department and every police department across the country every day that don’t involve all public input or input from the governing body.”
Allen also mentioned receiving feedback from two people who opposed the stickers and two who supported them.
“Those stickers on a car are not a huge concern to me,” Allen said. “There are bigger matters that we need to deal with, and if that’s the worse thing that’s happening with the police department, then we’re doing pretty well.”
In early March, Farr spoke in front of the city council asking for the decals to be removed, there be accountability taken on how the decals came about, an ordinance where elected officials are the only ones making decisions like this, and that the officers who said they and other Christian officers would handle complaints be investigated.