Bill Requiring 'In God We Trust' Display in Public Schools Passed by Tennessee Lawmakers

Where do you put your trust in?
Where do you put your trust in? | Pixabay

The general assembly in Tennessee has passed a bill that if signed into law by Republican Gov. Bill Haslam would require schools to prominently display the motto "In God We Trust" on campus.

House Bill 2368, also known as the National Motto in the Classroom Act, passed the state House on Monday with 81 percent of House members voting in favor of the bill. The bill was sent to the governor's office on Thursday.

The legislation, which was introduced by Republican Rep. Susan Lynn, requires schools place the motto in a location where students are likely to see it.

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According to the bill, schools can decide for themselves where it is placed as long as it is in a prominent location in the school, such as the cafeteria or the main entrance. Additionally, schools can decide for themselves what form the motto is displayed in.

Two examples the bill offers are mounted plaques or student artwork.

"Our national motto is on our money. It's on our license plates. It's part of our national anthem," Lynn said in a speech before the vote, according to The Tennessean. "Our national motto and founding documents are the cornerstone of freedom and we should teach our children about these things."

If signed into law, the bill will take effect in the 2018-2019 school year.

HB 2368 is just one of a number of similar bills that have been considered in state legislatures across the country in the past several years.

In February, the Arizona Senate passed a bill that would allow teachers to post the words "God enriches" in their classrooms. The saying is the english version of the state motto, "Ditat Deus."

The legislation was introduced by Republican Sen. Gail Griffin, who defended the bill from critics by saying that allowing schools to post the state motto in English would "be a good history lesson for students to learn where this came from." In Arizona, teachers are already allowed to post the words of the national motto in their classrooms.

A new law was passed last year and recently went into effect in the state of Arkansas that requires public school classrooms and libraries to put up "In God We Trust" posters.

While it might seem like Republicans are the ones leading the call for the display of "In God We Trust" in schools, that is not always the case.

In February, the House in Florida passed a bill in the wake of the horrific school shooting in Parkland that was introduced by Democrat Rep. Kimberly Daniels. The bill would require all public schools to display the motto "In God We Trust."

"It is not a secret that we have some gun issues that need to be addressed, but the real thing that needs to be addressed are issues of the heart," the bill's author, Rep. Kimberly Daniels, said on the floor of the Florida House, according to NPR. "I believe it was God, and I heard a voice say, 'Do not politicize what has happened in Florida and do not make this a thing of division.'"

She added that her bill is "so simple, just saying put a poster up to remind our children of the foundation of this country."

"In God We Trust" has been the national motto of the U.S. since 1956 and appeared on a U.S. coin for the first time in 1864 during Abraham Lincoln's presidency.

Naturally, the effort to place the national motto inside classrooms and even on state license plates has drawn the ire of advocates of secularism who call for a strict adherence to separation of church and state.

The Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation argues that such displays on public school grounds are a violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.

"The purpose behind the law is clear: to use the machinery of the state to promote Christianity," an FFRF statement after the passing of the Arkansas bill states.

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