Dawn Hankins

Pencil Shavings

Dawn Hankins is a staff writer for the Times-Gazette.

State mandates 'In God We Trust' in schools

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Four years ago, during a civil protest over advanced placement history changes at a Littleton, Colorado, school, students held signs that read: “If you hide history, it is doomed to repeat itself.”

(Those signs were actually coined from a saying by George Santayana, a philosopher, who -- Egads! -- eventually abandoned Harvard education.)

I saw another poster recently that said, “In God, We Fuss.” I must say that as a Christian, I found that


That is many times, true. We argue over placement of statues, plaques and placement of crosses, though God promised in the Bible (Book of Matthew) that we need not worry. We have enough worries in our world (perhaps poverty, affliction of others and abuse of little children?)

But, like it or not, it is a piece of U.S. Fabric – our historic motto, “In God We Trust,” is quite literally

coming back to school with students this fall. The state has secured the enscription this time in the form of an educational mandate. All schools must have it posted in clear view of students this year.

In April, the Tennessee General Assembly passed “National Motto in the Classroom Act,” a law which surprisingly meandered through the House and Senate rather quickly, by most standards and practices on the Hill.

“In God We Trust” is now on the legislative books as House Bill No. 2368 and Senate Bill No. 2661.

The state declared early on there will be no fines associated with failure to comply with this bill. Also, if there’s cost for the posters or artwork, which is acceptable, schools will need to find a way to fund it.

If you go to the Tennessee General Assembly website, you will see how it progressed this time around and who, and who did not, vote for it. If that interests you, it might be a good time to look at such, prior to August elections.

The legislature’s page can make for some interesting reading, if you’re into political science. I have a minor in that subject, so it makes me a little nerdy that way.

Reading on this bill, you will find that Rep. Susan Lynn, a Republican from Nashville, said education

is her reason for introducing the bill. Lynn, who serves on the House Ethics Committee, said, “children

need to learn the words” of the U.S. motto, which is prominently posted on our currency.

Rep. Paul Bailey of Sparta, also a Republican, sponsored the bill, as it made its way through the House with 81 “yea” votes, 8 “nay” votes and two legislators present choosing not to vote. The Senate passed the bill with 28 “yea” votes and zero “nay” votes.

Some people were discussing a few days ago how the bill is a partisan bill. Yes, on that website, you will see that Republicans sponsored the piece of legislation. But an ironic twist is that it was introduced to the Florida State Legislature in March by Kimberly Daniels. Hold on, a Democrat!

And even more ironic is that “In God We Trust” has been Florida’s state motto since the late 1800s.

Hmmm. So, legislatures are spending time on bills for mottos that technically already exist in America?

That brings me to a big point. When did the posting of the motto actually go away in schools? Or did it?

Court case after court case has seemed to lessen the importance of our U.S. motto, in terms of education. Using “God” has been deemed a violation of non-religious people’s rights.

Does it violate the First Amendment? Do Christians have rights for it to be posted?

Yes and Yes.

There is accommodation within the court system. It says courts may interpret religious cases, as long as decisions are equal and fair to all religions.

Each First Amendment Supreme Court case also brings with it precedents that have to be, at least, considered.

Everyone needs to have a voice. But how often does this topic need to surface?

History buffs happily note from time to time that the motto reflects back to early war days in U.S. history. During the Cold War, it was our way of showing Russia that we were a God-fearing nation.

Freedom from Religion proponents, who have voiced their discontent for “In God We Trust” in schools and other public thoroughfares, believe recent Tennessee legislation is “Christian driven,” or the words E pluribus unum, placed on currency back in the 1700s, would have been the wording


Is that a Latin word that is easily read by students? It actually means "out of many, one."

I’m just sayin’ . . .

The People have spoken, again.

“In God We Trust” first appeared on the 2 cent coin in 1864, as part of a Civil War sentiment.

In 2011, “In God We Trust” was flanked at the hearts of Americans following the New York terrorist


In 2018, we’re seeing the U.S. Motto option for state license plates.

It’s interesting that recent Gallup polls have shown 97 percent of the U.S. population wants “In God We Trust” to remain on our currency.

It seems placing “In God We Trust” in public places will probably continue to be debated throughout history and especially in the legislature, where bills start and disappear, quite often.

Is this the last we’ve heard from “In God We Trust” in Tennessee?

Ahh. Here’s the rub. Maybe the study of the progression of state government as a history lesson is where time is best spent regarding the U.S. motto.

If it comes down to an impasse of who’s right or wrong about posting “In God We Trust” in the future, I suggest we just flip a coin.

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  • I have no issue with it being displayed if other Religious motto's were displayed as well. Maybe 4 or 5 different ones. But i'll be happy to read all the legal issues that will come from this as i support separation of church and state. This is a country open to all religions, not just one.

    -- Posted by princeshoko1 on Thu, Jul 26, 2018, at 9:53 AM
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