Lawmakers in several states are moving legislation to require schools and other government buildings to prominently display the national motto – “In God We Trust.”
Tennessee lawmakers approved a measure last month to require “In God We Trust” to be posted on school property for students to view each day, and the bill now awaits a signature from Gov. Bill Haslam. In Arkansas, school officials are working to comply with Act 911, a new state law that requires schools to display In God We Trust posters, as well as the U.S. and Arkansas flags, if those items are donated.
Florida mandated In God We Trust on display, as well, though it’s already on the state flag as the official motto.
Legislators in South Carolina, Wyoming, Arizona, Alabama, Oklahoma and other states are considering similar requirements, over the objections of atheist groups that equate the motto to state-sponsored religion.
“When we took God out of schools, we took the 10 Commandments out of schools. When I was a kid, it was on the principal’s wall outside,” South Carolina state Rep. Mike Burns told Lumen Student News. Burns contends the prominence of God had a “stabilizing effect in society” and students “knew what was right versus wrong.”
“When we took all that out, look where we’ve evolved to,” Burns said. “Instead of having God in schools, now we have to have bullet-proof glass and we’ve got to have metal detectors. It’s sad that we’ve evolved to this negative place that we are, and now we’ve got to try to fight our way out of it.”
“Our national motto is on our money. It’s on our license plates. It’s part of our national anthem,” Tennessee state Rep., Susan Lynn told Breitbart. “Our national motto and founding documents are cornerstones of freedom, and we should teach our children about these things.”
“In God We Trust” first appeared on American currency in 1864, and President Dwight Eisenhower approved a law to make it the nation’s motto in 1956.
Florida is the only state that shares the official motto.
Florida Democrat Kimberly Daniels, who sponsored her state’s legislation, told WLTX her motivation to ensure God is in schools has nothing to do with politics.
“God isn’t a Republican, and He’s not a Democrat … He is the light, and our schools need light in them like never before,” she said.
And while most states haven’t allocated money to fulfill the mandates to display posters or signs with “In God We Trust,” private citizens and community groups have stepped up to ensure schools don’t go without.
Arkansas Rep. Jim Dotson, who sponsored Act 911, recently visited the Bentonville School board to present 891 framed copies of posters with the motto, a donation made possible by the local American Legion Post and Hobby Lobby.
The recent wave of “In God We Trust” state laws follows years of lawsuits and legal threats from atheist groups including the Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation to remove all references to God from public life.
The FFRF and other groups have threatened lawsuits for everything from school Christmas decorations to prayers before sporting events, and local reactions have varied. Many districts caved to atheists’’ legal threats and demands, while other communities have rallied to support public officials who protect students’ religious liberty.
FFRF strongly opposes laws like Arkansas’ Act 911, alleging the “In God We Trust” posters use “the machinery of the state to promote Christianity,” Fox News reports.