Tennessee Requires Schools To Post “In God We Trust”

Opponents Argue Violates Separation Of Church And State

Tenessee State House passed the bill requiring the state’s public schools to put up “In God We Trust” motto. If Governor Bill Haslam, a Republican, signs the bill into law it will take effect immediately.

Representative Susan Lynn, an elected Republican from Mt. Juliet, has sponsored the legislation. The bill had wide support in the State House. Among the 99 voting members, 81 gave their consent to the bill. The GOP lawmaker spoke from the floor of the House prior to the vote. She explained the phase’s prominence. Lynn pointed out that US Dollar carries the phrase. American driving licenses have the words inscribed on them. Even the US national anthem has the words. She claimed American freedom was immortalized by the founding documents and the national motto. It is thus natural to teach children about such things.

As per the bill, schools should display the “In God We Trust” motto. This display must be done in a location which is accessible to all. The list of prominent locations includes common areas, school entry zone, and the cafeteria. The bill does offer freedom on the location, only specifying that it must be in a prominent area. The motto, however, must be mounted on a plaque. It can also be a student artwork.

The “In God We Trust” motto’s sanctity does not date back to the founding days of the United States. It only gained prominence as national motto only in 1956. However, the words were first seen on an 1864-dated two-cent coin, as per the US Department of the Treasury. The inscription was put on the coins due to the increase of religious sentiment at the time of the Civil War.

The demand to add this motto is periodically demanded in legislatures all over the United States. Such proposed statutes result in a battle between Christian conservatives and Republicans against church-state separation advocates and secular activists. Many states have already implemented the “In God We Trust” display in their school books.

It is a matter of debate whether the motto represents the government endorsement of a formal religion. If it is, then this is unconstitutional. The same step has led to legal challenges in other states having similar laws. Alabama lawmakers are trying to display this motto on any public property. A lawmaker in Arizona has proposed a bill along similar lines.

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