A new law in South Dakota now requires all public schools across the state to feature the “In God We Trust” motto on display. Students returning to school this fall will be greeted by the message, which supporters say is meant to “inspire patriotism.”
Gov. Kristi Noem signed the law in March, and it went into effect this month. The law requires that the message is prominently displayed in all 149 South Dakota school districts on the first day of classes this year.
“Some have plaques, others have it painted on the wall, maybe in a mural setting,” Associated School Boards of South Dakota executive director Wade Pogany said, describing how schools plan to implement the new law. The display of the quote is required to be at least 12 inches by 12 inches in size. In one school “it was within their freedom wall. They added that to a patriotic theme,” he said.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation has condemned the law, calling it part of a “stealth campaign” to inject religion into state legislation. “The motto ‘In God We Trust’ is inaccurate, exclusionary, and aimed at brainwashing American schoolchildren into believing that our nation is a theocracy,” the organization said in a news release Thursday.
The group urged people to contact their legislators to oppose the law. “Our position is that it’s a terrible violation of freedom of conscience to inflict a godly message on a captive audience of schoolchildren,” co-president Annie Laurie Gaylor said.
According to the Rapid City Journal, administrators in Rapid City have already finished stenciling the motto on to the walls of its 23 public schools, costing a total of $2,800 — apparently the most affordable option. The law does not provide funding to install the displays.
The Journal reports a group of students from Stevens High School in Rapid City proposed making the motto more inclusive by alternating God with Buddha, Yahweh and Allah, and including terms like “science,” but the board took no action on that.
The U.S. Treasury Department says “In God We Trust” first appeared on coins in 1864 and was adopted as the country’s official motto in 1956, when President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed the proposal into law. It first appeared on paper money the following year.