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Newest School Requirement Is a Motto at Least 12 Inches High

South Dakota law takes effect
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 28, 2019 9:59 AM CDT
South Park Elementary in Rapid City, S.D., has the motto stenciled on a wall, in time for the first day of school this year.   (Adam Fondren/Rapid City Journal via AP)

(Newser) – South Dakota students will return to "In God We Trust" displayed in their schools—"in a prominent location," at least 12 inches by 12 inches. A new state law requires that the motto be in place for the first day of school. "Some have plaques, others have it painted on the wall, maybe in a mural setting," an official from a state school board advocacy group said, per CBS. The law does not provide money for the addition, and Rapid City schools have stenciled it on walls, the Journal reports. A group of high school students was unable to win approval for a display that included Buddha, Yahweh and Allah as an alternate to the motto that they said favors Christianity. Similar laws have passed or are under consideration in more than a dozen other states. "In God We Trust" has officially been the nation's motto since 1956.

"Our country was founded on Judeo-Christian principles, and I’m sure that’s where the motto emanates from,” the state senator who sponsored the bill said, per the Washington Post. He said he sees the display as a reaffirmation of those principles. The Freedom From Religion Foundation criticized the law, and the motto, which it called "inaccurate, exclusionary, and aimed at brainwashing American schoolchildren into believing that our nation is a theocracy." The group's co-president said, per the AP, "Our position is that it's a terrible violation of freedom of conscience to inflict a godly message on a captive audience of schoolchildren." The ACLU said, "No student should feel pressured in public school to adopt certain religious beliefs." The advocacy group, Associated School Boards of South Dakota, didn't take a stand on the law, and was only interested in protecting schools from lawsuits over the displays. Still, its executive director said, the motto could spark classroom discussions on issues such as: “What is patriotism about. What is Americanism about?” (Read more In God We Trust stories.)

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