After years of trying, Elk Grove City Council member bites on offer from 'In God We Trust' organization

Group seeking city hall plaque commended by an alleged anti-LGBT hate group 

August 22, 2018 |  

Even though it took years a group hoping to place an "In God We Trust" plague in the Elk Grove City Council chambers persistences has seemed to pay off recently thanks to a new spokesperson and the assistance of City Council Member Steve Detrick. 

According to information released by the City of Elk Grove from a public information request, the group called, who appeared at the August 8, 2018 city council meeting, started their efforts to have a plaque placed in the city council chamber almost four years ago. According to the documents released by the city, the first email communication between the city and the group occurred on November 23, 2014.

That email was sent directly to then-mayor Gary Davis. That email, which was from the organization's founder Jacqueline Sullivan contained literature explaining their goal of having the plaque placed in city council chambers throughout the country. 

Sullivan was sent an automatic reply from Davis' city email account saying they receive a large volume of requests and "well get back to you as soon as possible!" The city's document release showed no further email from communication Davis to Sullivan or the IGWTA organization. 

Following that, Sullivan continued direct communications with Davis several times. Those emails were sent on November 27, 2014; December 4, 2014; December 7, 2014; December 22, 2014; January 1, 2015; January 10, 2015; and May 25, 2015. 

SPLC's description of PJI on their website. Click on image to enlarge. 
Although Davis did not accept Sullivan's offer, the group persisted in its communications. Starting in June 2015 the emails from Sullivan showed her as the sender and recipient indicating it was a mass email to government officials, in Elk Grove's case, the city clerk's office based on an on-vacation auto-responses, in the blind copy email classification with the message "please distribute to elected officials and appropriate staff."  

The typical email included sample resolutions, a list of other cities and counties who agreed to their request and placed the plaque. The information packet also included a letter from the Pacific Justice Institute (PJI) dated June 4, 2010.

Among other things, the letter offered free legal services to IGMTA if needed, citations of case law addressing legal concerns. The PJI also said they "commend your organization for promoting the national motto..." (see letter below).

Based in Sacramento, the nationally known PJI has advocated for religious freedom and social issues. According to its website, the group is dedicated to "the defense of religious freedom, parental rights, and other civil liberties."

Because it has stood against legislation protecting the LGBT community, the PJI has caught the attention of Montgomery, Alabama-based Southern Poverty Law Center. In a report posted on their site, SPLC has classified PJI as a hate group, which the PJI denied.

The SPLC claimed "PJI has long opposed LGBT rights, and has been battling trans rights in recent years" and that it had fabricated a 2013 story about a trans student "claiming the student was harassing other female students in a girls’ restroom." Additionally, the SPLC stated that the PJI opposes a bill banning so-called conversion therapy in California. 

The packets of information sent continued on a near monthly basis. The format would include much of the same information, the PJI letter, updates, other legislative initiatives the organization was pursuing and continued to be sent by Sullivan through May 2018. 

Earlier this month the correspondence was sent from Gary Puryear instead of Sullivan. Although the format was mostly unchanged from Sullivan's, Puryear's August 6 email was followed-up with a personal appearance at the special city council meeting held on August 8. 

Unlike Sullivan's mass email, Puryear sent his August 6 email directly to Elk Grove City Clerk Jason Lindgren with the message "please distribute to elected officials and appropriate staff." Puryear's letter identified himself as the organization's Sacramento County representative. 

Interestingly, it appears Puryear's email, and public comments piqued the interest of Elk Grove Council Member Steve Detrick. After asking city attorney Jonathan Hobbs about the legality of a plaque immediately after Puryear spoke, at the very end of the meeting Detrick, with the unanimous consent of his council colleagues, granted Puryear's request and had the item placed on a future city council agenda for consideration (a video of Puryear's comments can be viewed below).

According to Hobbs, the soonest Puryear's plaque request could be considered would be during the September 12 meeting. 

If readers would like the entire 785-page document, please complete the contact form on the bottom rihgt corner of this page.  

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