Arizona Senate Passes Bill to Allow Teachers to Post 'God Enriches' in Classrooms

Students seen in a high school classroom. |

The Arizona Senate has passed a bill that would allow teachers to post the words "God enriches" in public school classrooms.

Last week, the upper house of the Grand Canyon State legislature voted 17-13 along party lines to pass Senate Bill 1289. If it passes in the House, the bill would amend statutes pertaining to public school displays on American history and heritage.

By state law, teachers and administrators are already allowed to post and read certain items in their classrooms such as the national anthem, the pledge of allegiance, the Declaration of Independence, United States Supreme Court decisions, acts of Congress and speeches of presidents and founding fathers.

Teachers and administrators are also already allowed by law to post and read the national motto, which is "In God We Trust."

The bill, which was introduced by Republican Sen. Gail Griffin and co-sponsored by all of her Republican colleagues, would simply add the state motto "Ditat Deus" to the list.

Ditat Deus in English means "God enriches."

As as the Arizona Republic notes, the bill cleared the Senate with little debate.

The Secular Coalition for Arizona, an advocacy group that advocates for a strict separation of church and state, points out that only one objection was raised about the bill while it was in committee.

The complaint came from Democrat Sen. Juan Mendez.

"After having a Latin motto for 155 years, is there a reason to suddenly start posting this specific English translation in our public schools?" Mendez was quoted as saying. "Educators should be supporting kids in all their diversity, not evangelizing privileged religious beliefs of legislators."

Griffin defended the legislation by saying in a public comment that allowing teachers and schools to post the state motto in English would "be a good history lesson for students to learn where this came from."

Critics of the bill argue that it is part of an "ideological push" to "chip away at secular government."

Tory Roberg, the director of government affairs for the Secular Coalition of Arizona, argues that the legislation is unconstitutional because it pushes Judeo-Christian beliefs. She contended in a statement that that the bill violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment and could open the public schools system up to lawsuits.

"By rephrasing the historical motto Ditat Deus into English, this bill divorces it from its historic usage and illegally allows schools to promote the belief in the god associated with the Judeo-Christian Bible," Roberg said.

The Arizona bill's passage in the Senate comes after the House of Representatives in the state of Florida overwhelmingly passed legislation last week in the wake of the high school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.

If it passes the Florida Senate, the bill would require every Florida public school and school administrative building to prominently display the the national motto "In God We Trust" in a "conspicuous place."

"[God is] not a Republican and he's not a Democrat," the bill's sponsor, Democrat Rep. Kimberly Daniels, said, according to NPR. "He's not black and he's not white. He is the light. And our schools need light in them like never before."

Daniels said that all she is asking is for schools to "put a poster up to remind our children of the foundation of this country."

Follow Samuel Smith on Twitter: @IamSamSmith Follow Samuel Smith on Facebook: SamuelSmithCP

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