Torrance city council

Councilmember Aurelio Matucci speaks during a September 2018 Torrance City Council meeting. The council voted 4-3 to have 'In God We Trust' placed in the wood background above the dais. (Photo by Axel Koester, Contributing Photographer)

Torrance’s Council Chambers will soon have “In God We Trust” emblazoned above the dais.

The City Council last week narrowly decided to put the motto in its chambers, despite no members of the public being present during the vote and one opposing councilmembers arguing the decision was made without transparency. The vote was 4 to 3.

The words will go on the wood paneling above the dais.

“The intention was to unite, though some may disagree,” said George Chen, who first suggested the idea and said he wanted the council to trust a higher power, even if it’s not God. “We’re here to serve the community, not to make a name for ourselves.”

But Councilmember Tim Goodrich railed against the idea, saying the council moved too fast on the item and didn’t receive enough public input.

“I’m absolutely appalled at what my colleagues are doing up here,” he said. “Ramming it down our throats — your colleagues’ throats — and the public’s throats.”

Chen first brought up the motto during the panel’s March 19 meeting, after he and his colleagues received an email from a nonprofit called In God We Trust America, which works to get the logo put in local government buildings across the country.

During the meeting, several residents spoke against installing the motto in chambers – and only one supported the move.

Still, the council voted – also 4 to 3  – to have staff draw up designs.

Staffers came back on Tuesday, May 14, with several suggestions. Ultimately, the council went with their colleague Mike Griffiths’ suggestion to emblazon it on the wood paneling.

Griffiths said he was inspired during a trip to Washington D.C., when he saw “In God We Trust” above the podium on which the speaker of the House of Representatives sits.

“It made me feel really strong. It made me feel really patriotic,” Griffiths told the Daily Breeze. “And if it’s good enough for the house chamber in D.C., then it’s good enough for Torrance.”

But the public wasn’t in the council chambers when the vote happened.

The room had been cleared earlier in the evening, following disruptions from protesters. The meeting was televised, but only city staffers and media were allowed in the chambers.

Mayor Patrick Furey—who along with Goodrich and Councilmember Geoff Rizzo—voted against the item, urged his colleagues to push the decision to the next meeting, scheduled for Tuesday, May 21.

Chen, Griffiths, and Councilmembers Milton Herring and Aurelio Mattucci voted for it.

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