Amid the holy week of Easter and Passover, Montgomery County Commissioner Joseph Gale is doing his part to put the “Worship” back in Whitemarsh Township.
Gale told NBC10 Wednesday he’s been delivering signs to Whitemarsh residents with the words, “Whitemarsh: A Great Place to Live, Work, & Worship.”
It’s all part of a campaign to return the original slogan of “Welcome to Whitemarsh Township: A Great Place to Live Work and Worship” back to roadside signs welcoming drivers to the town. Current welcoming signs leave out the word “Worship” and instead say, “Welcome to Whitemarsh Township: A Great Place to Live and Work.”
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Whitemarsh Township Supervisor and life-long resident Jim Totten brought attention to the issue earlier this year.
“I brought it to the attention of my board members when I let them know I wasn’t running for re-election,” Totten, the lone Republican on the town’s five-member board, told NBC10 in March. “This is not a political ploy to get me recognition. I did it because it’s morally the best thing to do.”
Totten said he was unsure when the word “Worship” was taken out of the township’s slogan. According to a recent published report, a member of the Whitemarsh Township Business Association said the organization was behind the design and creation of at least one of the current signs -- and the now-prevalent slogan -- in the early 1980s.
Township manager Rick Mellor said the rest of the signs were paid for by the township but was unsure when they were erected with worship-free wording, according to Montgomery News.
Gale told NBC10 he agrees with Totten and heard from many people during several Whitemarsh Township Board of Supervisors meetings who agreed as well that the word “Worship” should return.
“It is time to reclaim Whitemarsh’s heritage and history by once again embracing the fact that Whitemarsh Township is home to a Jewish synagogue and many Christian churches – otherwise known as ‘places of worship,’” Gale said.
Gale claimed Whitemarsh Township canceled two Board of Supervisors meetings after the issue of restoring the town’s original slogan was mentioned during a meeting on February 23. That’s when Gale decided to take action and deliver yard signs with the original slogan to Whitemarsh homes.
“In reaction to what appears to be a second attempt to silence support for Supervisor Totten’s proposal by effectively stripping Whitemarsh residents of their right to be heard publicly in a taxpayer-funded forum, a group of private citizens have pooled resources to acquire yard signs advocating restoration of the word, ‘Worship’ to Whitemarsh Township’s slogan,” Gale said.
“Furthermore, this consortium of men and women has asked me to be their voice in promoting the effort to distribute these yard signs to supportive households across Whitemarsh. I have enthusiastically agreed.”
Gale created a contact page on his website where Whitemarsh residents can request a sign for their yard.
Totten told NBC10 he doesn’t know when he’ll introduce a resolution for “Worship” to return and is still gathering opinions from residents. If the township board eventually takes up Totten’s idea before he leaves office next January, the new signs would be paid for through private donations, the supervisor said.
While some Whitemarsh Township residents have shown support for bringing "Worship" back, others have rejected the idea with one resident reportedly calling it "incredibly offensive," during a meeting back on March 23.
“The people that have been against it have thrown out the reasoning of separation of church and state. But it has nothing to do with it. They’re off on that,” Totten said. “If you go back in history, we wanted to leave England because we wanted to worship the way we wanted. Worship doesn’t mean you have to go to this church or that church. You could worship the tree in your front yard.”