In a major breach of separation of church and state, a new bill in South Dakota is forcing public schools to hang “In God We Trust” signs, per CNN.
Sen. Kristi Noem signed the bill in March, which says the words “In God We Trust” must appear in a prominent location in each public school in the state’s 149 school districts. The words can appear in the form of a sign, artwork, plaque or whatever the school desires. In terms of prominent places, the bill states the words should appear in “a school entryway, cafeteria, or other common area where students are most likely to see the national motto display.”
In terms of liability and legality, the bill includes protection for public schools if they face lawsuits or complaints based on the blatant advocating for Christianity. Any schools facing legal trouble due to the new bill will be defended by the state attorney general at a whopping zero-dollar cost. Similarly, if the schools become responsible for monetary or legal fees, the state will also compensate them for those.
Understandably, South Dakota citizens and lawmakers have some issues with the new mandate and its pro-Christianity message, which will more than likely alienate many non-Christian students.
In May, a group of students from Stevens High School, in Rapid City, S.D., requested that the word “God” be interchangeable with Allah, Yahweh, science, Buddha, Brahman and “ourselves.” To no surprise, the school board rejected the idea and moved forward with the “In God We Trust” rule, per CNN affiliate KOTA-TV.
“I think that’s a really foundational element of American society is that we are a cultural melting pot and it is really important that we make all people who come to America to feel welcome and to be more in accordance with the First Amendment since we all have the freedom of religion,” Abigail Ryan, Stevens High School student, said, per KOTA-TV.
“In God We Trust” is currently the U.S.’s national motto. The motto was first adopted for some forms of American currency in the 1860s, but in 1956 Eisenhower decreed the statement the country’s national motto.