Tenn. Schools May Soon Have to Show 'Cornerstone of Freedom'

Bill to prominently display national motto of 'In God We Trust' now on Gov. Haslam's desk
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 22, 2018 10:05 AM CDT
National Motto May Soon Get Center Stage in Tenn. Schools
Wyoming state Rep. Cheri Steinmetz on March 6, 2018, shows an example of an "In God We Trust" placard in Cheyenne, Wyo.   (AP Photo by Bob Moen)

It's up to Bill Haslam now whether one of America's most famous mottos ends up prominently displayed in his state's schools. The Tennesseean reports a bill is headed toward the Tennessee governor's desk to call for the conspicuous display in schools of the "In God We Trust" motto. The bill easily passed the state House Monday after sweeping through the state Senate earlier this month, so Haslam's signature is now all that's needed. The law would require schools to give the motto center stage in a well-trafficked location, like a cafeteria or entryway, though what form it takes (e.g., a plaque or as student artwork) seems more flexible. GOP Rep. Susan Lynn, the bill's House sponsor, spoke on the House floor before the vote about the motto's appearance on such things as national currency and on license plates, and how we ought to perpetuate it even further.

"Our national motto and founding documents are the cornerstone of freedom, and we should teach our children about these things," she said. The US Treasury website dives into the history of the slogan, which became the national motto in 1956. Other states like Florida, Oklahoma, and Arkansas have passed similar "In God We Trust" bills. As for those worried about the separation of church and state, the First Amendment Schools site notes that the Supreme Court has previously ruled that "God" references in things like the national motto and Pledge of Allegiance are simply "ceremonial deism," not the government attempting to force religion on anyone. Critics, however, say that because students are a "captive audience" (i.e., easily impressionable), posting God-themed content could veer closer to a state endorsement of religion. (More Tennessee stories.)

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