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'In God We Trust' decals on cop cars continue to stir up controversy in Texas

The use of "In God We Trust" stickers on the back of police cars continues to stir up controversy across Texas.

This time it is the Rio Grande Valley city of San Juan, where one local resident is protesting the police chief’s decision to put the decals on some patrol units — he claims it violates the separation of church and state.

"If one of his officers wanted to put a sticker from his own religion, say Muslim, say Jewish, say even Satanist religion, and they would say, 'I want my sticker, even if it is of the Santa Muerte,' would he, Chief Gonzalez, approve of it?" said resident Rick Ramirez.

While San Juan police chief Juan Gonzalez declined to give an interview to local media, he did write a letter to the press saying, "We are not trying to make any type of statement. It was just the right thing to do in my opinion."

The use of the decals began as a response to the slaying of officers on duty in places like Texas, Arkansas, Florida, Kentucky and Virginia.

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Speaking with Fox and Friends last month, Childress, Texas police Chief Adrian Garcia – who began the decal trend – said that the motto was meant to be a rallying cry after the death of fellow Texas lawman Darren Goforth last month. Goforth, a Harris County Deputy Sheriff, was shot 15 times and killed during an ambush at a suburban gas station.

"With all the assaults that are happening across America on law enforcement, I just felt that it was time to have somewhat of a rally cry. And what better thing to say it than have our national motto on our patrol units?" Garcia said on Fox and Friends.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott wrote on Monday to the state's Attorney General Ken Paxton to say "there can be no doubt" courts would side with the Childress Police Department if legal action was taken against the department.

"In God We Trust" first appeared on U.S. coins in 1864 and became the official national motto in 1956, being added to paper money the following year. While there have been many challenges to the motto over the decades, the Senate reaffirmed its status in 2006 and in 2011 the House of Representatives passed another resolution backing it.

The backlash has come from groups like the Freedom From Religion Foundation and local residents, but there has also been an outpouring of support from others in these communities.

"They need an extra shield," said San Juan resident Carmen Garza. "With everything that's happening right now and everything that's going on in our community, hey, it doesn't hurt to get extra help, and if that extra help is basing their faith in the Lord that's great."

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