A California woman who spoke out against a plan to erect an “In God We Trust” sign in city council chambers has had her house vandalized.
Lancaster resident Debbie Phillips had twice objected to the Lancaster City Council’s plan to post an “In God We Trust” sign. On May 29, she found the words “In God We Trust or?” scrawled in shoe polish in foot-high letters across two windows and a sliding-glass door of her house.
“People should be able to voice their opinion at City Hall without worrying about repercussions,” Phillips told the Los Angeles Daily News. “It’s mild vandalism, but it’s more damage to the psyche.”
Lancaster council members voted unanimously May 13 to post the motto. Phillips spoke out against it then and also asked the council to reconsider its decision during a later meeting. Her address became public after she gave it to Mayor R. Rex Parris during a public meeting to prove that she resides in Lancaster.
Members of the council decried the vandalism.
“I think it’s outrageous,” Parris said. “We should do whatever we can to find out who did it and put them in jail.”
Local police said the incident might not qualify as vandalism. Sgt. Michael Willoughby of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Office said the shoe polish could easily be removed.
“Because of the nature of the event, we are going to submit it to the D.A. and let them decide,” Willoughby told the Daily News. “Based on experience, unless there’s actual damage, it doesn’t really fall under the vandalism section.”
Phillips said she considers the incident a form of intimidation and reported it to the Antelope Valley Human Relations Task Force.
“I feel like this is a message from the local religious community telling me they are more powerful than I am,” she said. “This is also a violation of my First Amendment rights. I don’t appreciate them coming onto my property and defacing it.”
Communities throughout California are being pressured to post “In God We Trust” signs. The idea was hatched by Jacquie Sullivan, a member of the Bakersfield City Council. Sullivan has created a Web site, www.ingowetrustamerica.org, and hopes to take the campaign nationwide.
More than 30 California cities have approved the measure, but in some towns it has sparked discord.
In Fountain Valley, the proposal divided the city council.
“People do not come here for the purpose of practicing their faith, although they are free to do so if they wish,” Councilwoman Cheryl Brothers said. “I believe that City Hall is where we do government’s business in everyone’s name.”
Stephanie Campbell, president of the Orange County chapter of Americans United, had urged the council to vote down the proposal.
“This is not a house of worship; this is a house of democracy,” she said.
The council subsequently voted 3-2 against posting a sign.