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A new law requiring Texas schools to display donated “In God We Trust” posters is the latest move by Republican lawmakers to bring Christianity into taxpayer-funded institutions.
Under the law, Senate Bill 797, passed in last year’s legislative session, schools are required to post the posters if given.
The law went into effect last year, but those posters didn’t appear then because many school officials and parents were more concerned about new strains of COVID-19 and whether their local public school would even open in-person classes.
The “In God We Trust” law was drafted by State Senator Bryan Hughes, the East Texas Republican who drafted Texas Senate Bill 8, which limited abortion to the first six approximately weeks of pregnancy as of September 1, 2021. The abortion law has shrewdly sidestepped the legal challenge by relying on the public rather than law enforcement to enforce it.
Hughes’ “In God We Trust” poster law is also precisely written. Public schools or colleges in Texas must display the national motto in a “visible location,” but only if the poster is “donated” or “purchased by private donations.”
After an appearance for a Northwest Austin Republican Women’s Club event on Tuesday, Hughes boasted the new law and commended the groups that stepped up to donate the posters.
“The national motto, In God We Trust, affirms our collective trust in a sovereign God,” Hughes wrote on Twitter. “I’m encouraged to see bands like the Northwest [Austin] Republican women and many people came forward to donate these framed prints to remind future generations of the national motto.
Patriot Mobile, a Texas-based cellphone company that donates a portion of its customers’ phone bills to conservative “Christian” causes, donated several “In God We Trust” signs to all campuses on Monday. of the Carroll Independent School District, saying it is their “Mission is to passionately defend our constitutional, God-given rights and freedoms, and to always glorify God.”
“Patriot Mobile has donated framed posters to many other school districts in the Dallas-Fort Worth area and we will continue to do so until all area schools receive them,” the company said in a statement. a message on Facebook. “We are honored to help bring God back to our public schools! »
Carroll ISD includes Southlake, the affluent, predominantly white suburb of Dallas-Fort Worth. The community’s struggles with a school diversity and inclusion plan — as well as how parents opposed to the plan started a political movement there — were the subject of a seven-part NBC podcast released l ‘last year.
The Southlake Anti-Racism Coalition, or SARC, said in a statement that it was not happy that the law required public schools to display the posters.
“SARC is troubled by the precedent that the display of these posters in every school will set and the chilling effect that this blatant intrusion of religion into what should be a secular public institution will have on the student body, particularly those who do not practice the mainstream Christian faith,” the statement read.
Donations of “In God We Trust” posters were also made to the Houston-area Cypress-Fairbanks Independent School District. The posters were donated by The Yellow Rose of Texas Republican Women.
Moms for Liberty, a conservative nonprofit, donated posters for campuses in the Round Rock Independent School District, district spokeswoman Jenny Caputo said. Most campuses have signs in a hallway near the front of each campus.
The Keller Independent School District in Tarrant County received posters from a private citizen for all of its facilities, and they are displayed primarily in offices, said Bryce Nieman, spokesperson for Keller ISD.
Erik Leist, a Keller resident and father of a future kindergarten, said the motto represents America’s founding and believes the law empowers communities to do what they think is best.
“If it’s important to the communities, the community will come behind it,” Leist said. “If it’s not something the community values, it won’t end up in school.”
Leist also said he simply sees it as the nation’s motto, not pushing any particular religion.
The Yellow Rose of Texas Republican Women and the Northwest Austin Republican Women’s Club did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The Texas Tribune contacted Hughes as well as Aaron Rocha, Leigh Wambsganss and Scott Coburn with Patriot Mobile to discuss the billboard law. None responded immediately to the Tribune’s request for comment.
Origins of “In God We Trust”
In 1956, Congress passed a joint resolution that made “In God We Trust” the nation’s motto, replacing “e pluribus unum (one among many)”. Lawmakers did so in part to differentiate themselves during the Cold War from the Soviet Union, which embraced atheism.
The national motto “In God We Trust” can be found on money and government buildings and has proven ironclad when it comes to legal challenges that claim the reference to God could be considered a prayer approved by the government, infringing on the American First Amendment. rights.
In a 1970 case, Aronow v. United States, a Federal Court of Appeals ruled “It is quite obvious that the national motto and the slogan on the currency and currency ‘In God We Trust’ have absolutely nothing to do with the establishment of religion.”
From currency to movement
During this century, there has been a growing movement to place the currency in more visible government spaces.
Since 2015, efforts to place “In God We Trust” on police cars, for example, have spread. There is even a website, ingodwetrust.com, which specifically states that the movement aims to protect “citizens’ “First Amendment right to religious freedom, a freedom that is threatened by a well-organized and well-funded effort to remove any vestige of God from the public domain in America.
For Patriot Mobile, this is the company’s latest effort in its plan to “put conservative Christian values into action” and it is targeting Texas public schools through its political action committee, Patriot Mobile Action. .
Last spring and ahead of the school board elections in May, the Patriot Mobile Action PAC raised more than $500,000 for conservative school board candidates across North Texas, including Carroll ISD.
The full schedule is now LIVE for The Texas Tribune 2022, taking place September 22-24 in Austin. Explore the timeline of over 100 insightful conversations coming to TribFest, including the inside track on the 2022 election and 2023 legislative session, the state of public and higher education at this stage of the pandemic, why Texas suburbs are booming, why broadband access matters, the legacy of slavery, what really happened in Uvalde and much more. See the program.