South Dakota law mandates all public schools display national motto 'In God We Trust'

"In God We Trust" is inscribed above the judge's chair in Part 31, Room 1333 of the New York State Supreme Court, Criminal Term at 100 Centre Street, in New York, February 3, 2012. | (Photo: Reuters/Chip East)

A new South Dakota law that mandates the display of the national motto “In God We Trust” in public schools is now in effect.

According to the law, state public schools must display the motto in a manner that is approved by school principals and is at least 12 inches by 12 inches in size. 

Wade Pogany, executive director of the Associated School Boards of South Dakota, told The Associated Press last week that schools have enacted the new law in various ways.

“Some have plaques. Other have it painted on the wall, maybe in a mural setting,” said Pogany. “[In one school] it was within their freedom wall. They added that to a patriotic theme.”

“In God We Trust” became the official motto of the United States on July 30, 1956, when President Dwight Eisenhower signed a law that also imprinted the motto on national currency.

In recent years, secularist organizations have attempted to have the motto removed from U.S. currency and elsewhere, arguing that “In God We Trust” violates church and state separation.

The Madison, Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation denounced South Dakota for enacting the new law, having actively campaigned against it when it was in the legislature.

“The law — insultingly confusing patriotism with piety — is part of the nationwide legislative push by Project Blitz, which is a stealth campaign to inject religious bills into state legislatures across the country,” the FFRF said last week.

“One-third of millennials are ‘nones,’ and one-fifth of Gen Z explicitly identifies as atheist or agnostic. A large portion of the schoolchildren in South Dakota belong to Gen Z — and with the required display of an explicitly religious motto, religion is being imposed on the freethinkers among them.”

The Rev. Franklin Graham, head of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, took to his official Facebook page to commend South Dakota over its law.

“Way to go South Dakota!” wrote Graham. “When you think about it, this simple four-word historic motto is so profound. The only hope for the future of our nation is in Almighty God.”

“This should not only be the motto on our country’s currency, but the motto of our families, lived out every day. Maybe we should take a lesson from South Dakota schools and stencil it in our homes — and in our hearts.”

Follow Michael Gryboski on Twitter or Facebook

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