By Joy Hampton
The Norman Transcript
Cleveland County Commissioners will join a handful of Oklahoma county commissioners who have added prayer at the beginning of weekly meetings. In this case, Commissioner Rusty Sullivan said that the prayer will be conducted prior to the meeting being called to order.
That official separation of church and state aside, there’s a growing trend pushed by conservatives to put God back into government.
“I think it’s reverent and an honor to our founding principles,” BOCC Chair Rod Cleveland said. “There is prayer before they open each day at the state legislature.”
Additionally, the Cleveland County Commissioners’ meeting room and the Norman City Council Chambers both sport “In God We Trust” signs on the wall.
The signs are sweeping the nation. Often, those encouraging the display of the motto provide a sample ordinance to city and county leaders. Because the phrase is on American money and is the official motto of the United States, it has historical implications that supersede legal arguments supporting separation of church and state.
According the United States Treasury Department, “In God We Trust” was placed on coins because of “increased religious sentiment existing during the Civil War.”
The slogan became the nation’s official motto in the mid-50s, but in case that wasn’t enough, Congress has confirmed the statement as the national motto a couple of times since then.
Rogers County Commissioners added prayer to their meeting agenda six years ago. The invocation is listed as Item 4 right after the pledge of allegiance and also following the call to order and roll call. Most weeks, one of the county commissioners leads that prayer.
“What I was going to propose to the other county commissioners is that we would rotate responsibility for the prayer each month,” Cleveland said.
If that happens, each commissioner could either lead it himself or ask someone to lead it.
“In Oklahoma County, they rotate it every month and leading the pledge of allegiance, too,” Cleveland said. “I wanted to invite in the Eagle Scouts to lead the Pledge of Allegiance and the prayer. That’s something I’ve always wanted to do is recognize the Eagle Scouts in our community.”
Also this week, commissioners hired George Mauldin, a 29-year veteran of the Norman Police Department, as the county’s next emergency management director. Commissioners said Mauldin would start work March 1.
Mauldin was chosen from a field of nine “very qualified” applicants, according to commissioners. A committee comprised of District 2 County Commissioner Darry Stacy, retiring Cleveland County Emergency Management Director Dan Cary and Association of County Commissioners of Oklahoma Safety Director Dale Freck interviewed the candidates this past week.
Mauldin has served on the Norman Police Department’s bomb squad for 20 years and is a certified hazmat tech.
“I’ve had a history and an interest in emergency management for many years,” Mauldin said.
A Norman resident, Mauldin is married to Kerry and