God has been cut from Sparks City Hall. Literally.
Patriotic signs showing an American flag and the words "God Bless America" have been displayed at City Hall since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks two years ago.
But City Attorney Chet Adams, concerned that reference to God could be construed as a city-sanctioned endorsement of religion and invite lawsuits, ordered that the signs be altered, the Reno Gazette-Journal reported Tuesday.
An employee used scissors to cut the word God from the signs, which now read, "Bless America."
"Who is blessing America? Well, I don't know who is blessing America, but I think a court would say the word 'bless' is OK," said Adams.
"I hope I didn't exacerbate the situation," he said. "Maybe it should just say 'America' on there."
Adams said current controversies - including the removal of a monument bearing the 10 Commandments from a courthouse in Alabama and a finding by a federal appeals court that the Pledge of Allegiance is unconstitutional - make displaying the word "God" inside City Hall inadvisable.
"My experience is that people will sue for any reason under the sun because they feel it's their God-given right to do so," Adams said.
Some city workers were taken aback by Adams' decision.
"(It) kind of shocked us," said David Hart, a revenue assistant working in the licensing department where most of the signs were displayed.
Jan Holman, the employee who did the snipping, was particularly troubled.
"I just think it's such a sad state of affairs that we can't express ourselves fully because it might offend someone," Holman said. "I almost find it offensive that we have to take it down."
The issue sparked a tense exchange last week between Holman and another employee who believed Adams' decision was justified.
"We live in a society that has separation of church and state, and that's how it's supposed to be," said the employee, who declined to be identified.