City awaits high court's seal of approval

December 11, 1992|By Chicago Tribune

ZION, Ill. -- Zion has pulled a new civic slogan out of its pocke -- literally. The motto is straight off U.S. currency and coins: "In God We Trust."

Although it is only a minor change from the old motto, "God Reigns," city officials in this northern corner of Illinois are banking that courts will find constitutional the phrase that soon will be emblazoned on their new city seal.

The U.S. Supreme Court this summer ruled Zion's old seal, which included several religious symbols, an unconstitutional mix of church and state. Along with the Chicago suburbs of Palatine and Rolling Meadows, whose municipal seals featured Christian crosses, Zion was under legal pressure to redesign.

Mayor Billy McCullough said he expects the seal, which was approved by the City Council Monday night, will find a place in the "hearts and minds" of residents of Zion, which was founded a century ago by faith healer John Alexander Dowie and his fundamentalist followers.

The residents paid for an ill-fated, seven-year, $100,000 legal fight to keep the slogan and the Christian symbols on the old seal.

Not surprisingly, Zion's new seal has aroused the opponents of the old seal. The Illinois chapter of the American Atheists already is preparing a legal challenge. The organization's president, Robert Sherman, accused city leaders of "thumbing their noses" at atheists who had won court cases against Zion and Rolling Meadows.

Although the Supreme Court has objected to religious signs and symbols, individual justices have ruled that "In God We Trust" has been around so long on U.S. currency that it is a historical reference, not a religious one.

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