All South Dakota Public Schools to Put Up “In God We Trust” Signs

The ACLU is yet to receive any feedback about this development.

Governor Kristi Noem of South Dakota signed Senate Bill 55 on March 19 requiring all public schools in the state to display in a prominent place the sign “In God We Trust” starting next school year. She also signed another bill which will allow citizens to carry firearms in the Capitol building of South Dakota.

Senate Bill 55 will enforce every state public school to put up the “In God We Trust” sign at a place where it can be seen and read by everyone. The law will come into effect from the 2019 to 2020 school year. The bill states that the display should be easily readable. It must be a minimum of 12 inches tall and the breadth not less than 12 inches. In this context, the definition of a prominent location comprises the school entry area or the cafeteria, or any other equivalent common area. Every student must be able to see and read the sign.

There were debates during the legislative session to formulating the language of the law concerning the display. The House and the Senate members went through the implications of the word "requirement." The bill's language was edited by the Senate Education Committee to permit public schools in South Dakota state to display it but did not specify it as a requirement. The House State Affairs Committee reverted the text into a requirement. A section was then tamped to the bill which states that if there is a lawsuit related to displaying the phrase, then legal representation will be offered by the state attorney general free of cost. The school board or school district will not have to bear any litigation expenses on this context. The state will take all financial responsibility for any legal costs linked to the lawsuit.

According to Janna Farley of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), her organization is yet to receive feedback about Senate Bill 55. Farley is the communications director of ACLU. Heather Smith, the executive director of ACLU South Dakota, pointed out that all students, irrespective of their faith, or absence of one, must be welcome in public schools.

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