The ACLU is helping a Missouri woman sue the city of Wentzville after she was removed from a city council meeting for criticizing the words “In God We Trust.”
Sally Hunt, a self proclaimed atheist activist, claims she was interrupted and later removed by Mayor Nick Guiccione when she complained about the words “In God We Trust” being on the council’s podium, The St. Louis Post Dispatch reported. The lawsuit says Hunt feels her First Amendment rights were violated.
“The right to disagree with public officials without retribution is at the heart of a thriving democracy,” Tony Rothert, ACLU of Missouri Legal Director, said in a statement. “Just because a public official does not like what someone says about his decision it does not give him the right to intimidate someone or censor constitutionally protected speech.”
“We certainly cannot make an assumption that every single person in all of Wentzville has a particular belief,” Hunt told the council. “It became our national motto in 1956, not before. And it became our national motto during the cold war. The reason it became our national motto, this is very important U.S. history, the reason for that was to separate people in the United States from those ‘Godless commies.’ It was a view that there was something wrong with not believing in a higher power.”
Mayor Guccione claims the display was paid for with private funds and said there are no plans to take it down. He also said he had Hunt removed because she went over the allowed speaking time and he feared she would become disruptive.
Guccione said Hunt’s claims were “hearsay” and had her removed when she tried to continue speaking.