Oklahoma is one step closer to adding the national motto “In God We Trust” to more than 300 state buildings, with a bill passing the state’s House of Representatives.
The Oklahoma House voted Tuesday to overwhelmingly support House Bill 3817, with a final tally of 76 yeas, and 20 nays, with 4 legislators excused.
Authored by House Speaker Charles McCall, HB 3817 would have the Office of Management and Enterprise Services display the national motto on 342 state buildings.
“The placement and size of the display shall be in keeping with the placement and size of the display of the national motto in the United States Capitol Visitor Center,” reads the proposed legislation in part.
“The display of the national motto shall not be construed to mean that the State of Oklahoma favors any particular religion or denomination thereof over others.”
Republican state Rep. Jay Steagall of Yukon defended the legislation, dismissing in a statement last month any church and state separation concerns.
“Our government is based on the idea that our inalienable rights are granted to us by our creator,” Steagall said, according to Tulsa World. “It is impossible to separate church from state. And our founders said we should not do that, actually.”
Other legislators have criticized the measure, as have multiple secular organizations that view HB 3817 as an offensive government endorsement of religion.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation argued in an action alert that the proposed legislation was an example of “government-sponsored Christian proselytizing.”
“While politicians claim that these laws are intended to showcase the national motto or inspire patriotism, it is clear that their true purpose is to peddle religiosity to a captive audience,” stated FFRF. “These laws are about advancing the Big Lie that the United States was ‘founded on God’ or Christianity, dismantling the wall of separation between religion and government.”
The statement “In God We Trust” became the official motto of the United States in 1956 when President Dwight Eisenhower signed a law that also put the motto on the currency.
More recently, secularist groups have tried to remove the motto from U.S. money and elsewhere under the belief that it violates church and state separation.
Last year, South Dakota put into effect a law that required all public schools to display the national motto that was at least 12 inches by 12 inches in size.
“Some have plaques. Other have it painted on the wall, maybe in a mural setting,” explained Wade Pogany, executive director of the Associated School Boards of South Dakota, to The Associated Press last year. “[In one school] it was within their freedom wall. They added that to a patriotic theme.”