When students return to public schools across South Dakota this fall, they should expect to see a new message on display: “In God We Trust.”
A new state law that took effect this month requires all public schools in the state’s 149 districts to paint, stencil or otherwise prominently display the national motto.
The South Dakota lawmakers who proposed the law said the requirement was meant to inspire patriotism in the state’s public schools. Displays must be at least 12-by-12 inches and must be approved by the school’s principal, according to the law.
Associated School Boards of South Dakota executive director Wade Pogany said schools are complying with the law in different ways.
“Some have plaques. Other have it painted on the wall, maybe in a mural setting,” Pogany said. In one school “it was within their freedom wall. They added that to a patriotic theme.”
The Freedom From Religion Foundation, based in Madison, Wisconsin, which has legally challenged the motto’s inclusion on U.S. currency, alerted its South Dakota members to contact their legislators to express opposition to the law.
Pogany said the school boards’ association was OK with the legislation as long as it provided legal protection.
“One of our concerns was that this would be contested. So we had asked the legislature to put a ‘hold harmless’ clause into the bill. The state would then defend the schools and pay the cost of the defense,” Pogany said.
Administrators at Rapid City Area Schools have finished stenciling the motto on the walls of its 23 public schools. The law doesn’t provide funding for installing the message. Stenciling the motto cost a total of $2,800 at Rapid City schools, spokeswoman Katy Urban told the Rapid City Journal.
In May, a group of students from the district’s Stevens High School suggested to the school board an alternate version of the motto they designed that includes the names of Buddha, Yahweh and Allah—as well as terms likes science and the spirits. The student group Working to Initiate Societal Equality, or WISE, told board members that the standard motto appears to favor Christianity over other religions.
“To my knowledge there’s been no discussion among the board about any alternative,” Urban said.
“In God We Trust” was adopted when President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed legislation in 1956. According to the U.S. Department of Treasury website it first appeared on paper money the following year.
‘In God We Trust’ in Public Places
Signs containing the text “In God We Trust” are starting to appear again in public schools and other public venues across the United States as an increased number of states pass laws allowing or mandating references to the divine.
Advocates for the expansion of these laws say the text helps to honor traditions that provides direction and hope.
Rep. Kimberly Daniels, a pastor and Democratic representative for Florida House of Representatives District 14 proposed such legislation in the wake of the Stoneman Douglas school massacre.
Daniels cited divine inspiration in her efforts to try to bring about a situation in which every public school student in Florida is educated in a school that features a sign saying “In God We Trust.”
“This motto is inscribed on the halls of this great Capitol and inked on our currency, and it should be displayed so that our children will be exposed and educated on this great motto, which is a part of this country’s foundation,” Daniels said while pushing her bill (HB 839) in the House Committee, reported Orlando Sentinel. “Something so great should not be hidden.”
The bill was eventually passed and was signed into law and took effect on July 1. It states: “Each district school board shall adopt rules to require, in all of the schools of the district and in each building used by the district school board, the display of the state motto, ‘In God We Trust,’ designated under s. 15.0301, in a conspicuous place.”
Epoch Times reporter Janita Kan and Tom Ozimek contributed to this report.