Texas School District Enforces “In God We Trust” But Whose God, And Who’s We?
The spotlight never dims on Texas. Earlier this year a school district banned an Anne Frank adaptation, and now under a new state law, public schools “must display in a conspicuous place in each building…a durable poster or framed copy of the United States national motto, ‘In God We Trust’.” The new law stipulates two requirements: that the signs be donated to the school, and they have to display both the flags of Texas and the U.S.
The law, while mandating those two things, raises two questions, namely “In just whose God do we trust?” (Jehovah? Allah? Brahma? Torngarsuk?) And “Who exactly is ‘We?’” (Christians? Jews? Muslims? Hindus? Indigenous Peoples? Blacks? LGBTQ?)
Seeking to elicit an answer to these questions or at least an acknowledgment of them, a Texas parent from the Carroll Independent School District (CISD)—a neighboring suburb to the Keller district of the Anne Frank ban—showed up at a school board meeting. The parent, Sravan Krishna, a member of the Dignity for All Texas Students group, saw his request to be put on the board’s agenda denied, but arrived to speak once the floor was opened for public comments.
Krishna used his three minutes to open a white box containing framed “In God We Trust” posters—all exactly per the requirements of the new law—but one with “God” adorned in rainbow LGBTQ colors and another with the nation’s motto in Arabic. Presenting the box to the school board he said, “I’m here today to present…the ‘In God We Trust’ posters to the schools. I’d like to request you to come and accept it.”
The school board was ready. Reading from a prepared statement, Board president Cameron Bryan thanked Krishna but said that “In God We Trust” signs had already been donated to the district—by the Christian conservative wireless provider Patriot Mobile. The wireless provider is tied to a political action committee that made large contributions to elect school board members in the area.
“CISD accepted, as required by law, the S.B. 797 donation at the August 15 board meeting. Therefore, all 11 campuses plus the admin building now have the poster pursuant to S.B. 797,” Bryan said, adding that the statute does “not contemplate requiring the district to display more than one copy at a time.”
But Krishna did not sit down. He still had time on his three minutes and was determined to use it. “It doesn’t say you have to stop at one, so that is your decision to stop at one. Why is more God not good? This is also our national motto, so I think it’s kind of un-American to reject posters of our national motto.”
Krishna then removed and displayed the rest of the posters to the now-silent room, a silence finally punctured by a beep signaling the end of his time. “That’s my time,” he said. “I can do whatever I want with it. Deal with it.” Then he went back to his seat.
Carroll—an affluent, mostly white district serving the majority of Southlake—has been the go-to battlefield for debates around how schools should discuss diversity and inclusion. The U.S. Department of Education last fall opened a handful of civil rights investigations into “allegations related to discrimination based on race, color, national origin, or sex” within Southlake schools.
Krishna is a member of the Southlake Anti-Racism Coalition (SARC), a group of current and former students of the Carroll school district who produced and donated the posters in his white box.
“We and the kids just want to feel included,” Krishna told reporter Karen Attiah after the meeting. “We are taxpayers and voters, too.” Other meeting attendees echoed Krishna’s sentiments, expressing the wish for “In God We Trust” posters in Spanish and Braille, as a true representation of the Southlake community’s growing diversity.
Following the donation last week, SARC released a statement opposing the law, The Texas Tribune reported.
“SARC is disturbed by the precedent displaying these posters in every school will set and the chilling effect this blatant intrusion of religion in what should be a secular public institution will have on the student body, especially those who do not practice the dominant Christian faith,” the statement read.
Patriot Mobile’s donation garnered widespread attention and spurred some reaction from across the country. A Florida activist has raised more than $50,000 via a GoFundMe to donate hundreds of signs—in Arabic, Hindi and with gay pride symbols—to schools across the state, “flooding the public school system.”
And just to make sure everyone is included, yes, there is also a poster in Klingon.