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Roane County courthouse

In just a few weeks, another East Tennessee courthouse will prominently display the national motto.

Roane County commissioners before a packed meeting room voted 13-1 on Monday evening to place the words "In God We Trust" over two entrances to the courthouse in Kingston as well as in the Qualls Commission Room.

The motto also has been affixed to courthouses in Anderson, Morgan and Putnam counties.

"I'm just happy to get this passed through County Commission," said Roane County Commissioner Randy Ellis, who spearheaded the effort. Ellis said he believes it reflects the will of the county's residents.

Commissioner Steve Kelley cast the only dissenting vote. On Tuesday, Kelley said his concerns centered on the separation of church and state, and how most of the support for the move was religious in nature.

In prepared talking points, Kelley asked, "Is it going to become criminal to be non-Christian?"

Ellis said black granite markers measuring 5 feet long by 8 inches high bearing the motto will be placed over the courthouse entrances, while a bronze plaque will be displayed in the commission meeting room.

Ellis said the markers will be patterned after those placed over the entrances to the Anderson County Courthouse last year. Commissioners in that county debated the proposal at length before approving it.

Next up, Ellis said, is the fundraising phase. A $4,300 goal has been set to make and erect the markers.

"It's time to put your money where your mouth is," he said.

One marker will be placed over the north entrance, where there is public access, while the other will go over the closed south entrance, which fronts U.S. Highway 70, also known as Race Street.

Commissioners first considered a resolution calling for the action in May but referred it to the commission's property committee in an 8-7 decision. Members of that committee in June voted to send it back to the full panel.