Councilman Wants to Put ‘Worship’ Back into Whitemarsh

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A local elected official in Montgomery County wants to get to a time when worshiping held as much weight as living and working in his town.

Whitemarsh Councilman Jim Totten, a lifelong township resident, says he remembers when roadside signs welcoming drivers included the words: “Welcome to Whitemarsh Township: A Great Place to Live, Work and Worship.”

At some point along the way, he says the signs dropped the word “worship.”

“It’s very blasé,” Totten said of the current slogan. “Everyone has that sign now because everyone is afraid to step on anyone’s toes.”

Totten, the lone Republican on the town’s five-member board, said he isn’t doing this as a political ploy. He said he’s been waiting for three years to make this push.

“I brought it to the attention of my board members when I let them know I wasn’t running for re-election,” the one-and-done councilman said in an interview Thursday. “This is not a political ploy to get me recognition. I did it because it’s morally the best thing to do.”

When the sign changed Totten does not know. But 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.

And he said the word “worship” was not involved in the discussion of the sign eventually erected at Miles Park, according to news site Montgomery News.

As for the rest of the signs, township manager Rick Mellor said the rest of the signs were paid for by the township, but that he doesn’t know when they were erected with worship-free wording, Montgomery News reported.

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 councilman said.

He does not yet know when he plans to introduce a resolution. He is still gathering opinions from residents.

“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 this church or that church. You could worship the tree in your front yard.”

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