GROVETOWN, Ga. -- In Grovetown, a city east of Atlanta, the mayor says he threatened to have a blogger arrested after they disagreed over a slogan emblazoned on the city’s police cars. The slogan says “in God we trust.” The blogger is an atheist.
It's more than a story about the separation of church and state. It’s also about how disagreements over the concept can get very overheated, especially in a small town in Georgia.
Mayor Gary Jones spearheaded the move to emblazon “In God We Trust” on the rear bumpers of Grovetown’s police cars.
"I don’t think it’s a statement," Jones said. "I just feel like it’s been a national motto – that’s been accepted in the courts since back in the fifties." Jones said a private citizen offered to fund the project.
And it drew the ire of RJ, a Grovetown atheist who has declined to give his name for fear of reprisal. RJ complained to Mayor Jones about the slogans on the bumpers.
"It's just an egregious assault to the separation of church and state," RJ told us. "I thought he was really disrespectful and dismissive and derisive of my input. And I insulted him a little bit" afterward.
At that point, RJ says Mayor Jones threatened to have him arrested.
"It all falls under the Georgia criminal code," said Jones, a former police chief. "It wasn’t the name calling. It was the continuation. And I didn’t want to have any further contact with him."
Jones and RJ say at that point, their interaction abruptly halted – until RJ wrote about it online. Now the mayor says he’s getting complaints from around the world about the slogan – but none from Grovetown.
RJ acknowledges that "In God We Trust" has appeared on US currency and coins since the middle of the 20th century. He says Jones invited him to stop spending US currency if the motto offended him.
Jones says the mottos now emblazoned on Grovetown PD's patrol cars aren't going anywhere. Meantime, shortly our interview, RJ posted another piece suggesting that cooler heads prevail in the controversy..