Unifying message? Political stunt? Texans divided over law on 'In God We Trust' signs at schools

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Saturday, August 20, 2022
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A law passed in 2021 states that public schools in Texas must display a sign with "In God We Trust" if received as a donation from a private entity or purchased with donated money.

A law passed by the Texas Legislature in 2021 states that public schools in the state must display a sign with the national motto, "In God We Trust," if it's been received as a donation from a private entity or purchased with donated money.

SB 797, which applies to schools, universities, and the like, states the sign must be displayed in a conspicuous place, has to be framed or on durable poster board, and must include an American flag.

Texas State Representative Dr. Tom Oliverson is the bill's co-author, and had this to say about the legislation.

"I strongly believe that the proud and patriotic display of 'In God We Trust' can only have a beneficial effect on our communities and our schools," Oliverson said in a statement to ABC13. "I ask people of all faith traditions to join me in support of this unifying, positive, and powerful message."

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However, a parent who wishes to remain anonymous said he doesn't like the fact that his daughter must walk past that sign on her way into school every day.

"It seems like a clear aggression against the separation of church and state and I don't know why it's necessary," he said. "I don't understand what it's for other than some kind of political stunt."

Randall Kallinen is a civil rights attorney who has represented both sides on the issue of religious freedom.

He said the answer to whether or not these signs violate the Constitution is up to the highest court in the land.

"That is up to the Supreme Court and its decisions," Kallinen said. "Now on this particular issue, the Supreme Court has not decided yet whether or not this motto, which came into the existence in the 1950s, is something that can be put up on the school walls."

Meaning it could take time, and multiple legal battles, to ultimately decide whether this issue violates the United States Constitution.

That issue aside, Oliverson said the signs are meant to be an inclusive addition to schools across Texas.

"It is a very unifying message amongst many faith traditions, accurately reflecting the religious diversity of our nation," he wrote.

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