Lawmakers in several states are moving legislation to enshrine the nation’s motto – “In God We Trust” – in schools and other public buildings to remind students about what’s most important.
In Tennessee, lawmakers approved a bill last month to require schools to prominently display In God We Trust and the measure now awaits Gov. Bill Haslam’s signature. Arkansas approved a similar law, now Act 911, that requires schools to display posters with the motto, as well as the state and U.S. flags, when the posters are donated.
It’s a similar situation in Florida, where schools are now mandated to display In God We Trust, though it’s also the state motto and part of the Florida flag.
Legislators in South Carolina, Wyoming, Arizona, Alabama, Oklahoma and other states are considering similar requirements, despite the objections from groups that deem the motto state-sponsored religion.
“When we took God out of schools, we took the 10 Commandments out of schools. When I was a kid, it was on the principal’s wall outside,” South Carolina state Rep. Mike Burns told Lumen Student News. Burns said the central focus on God created “a stabilizing effect in society” because students “knew what was right versus wrong.”
“When we took all that out, look where we’ve evolved to,” he said. “Instead of having God in schools, now we have bullet-proof glass and we’ve got to have metal detectors. It’s sad that we’ve evolved to this negative place that we are, and now we’ve got to try to fight our way out of it.”
“In God We Trust” first appeared on U.S. currency in 1864, and President Dwight Eisenhower officially made it the nation’s motto in 1956. Many Republican and Democrat lawmakers agree that faith in a higher power is something students should understand.
“Our national motto is on our money. It’s on our license plates. It’s part of our national anthem,” Tennessee State Rep. Susan Lynn told Breitbart. “Our national motto and founding documents are cornerstones of freedom, and we should teach our children about these things.”
“God isn’t a Republican, and He’s not a Democrat … He is the light, and our schools need light in them like never before,” Florida Democrat Kimberly Daniels, sponsor of The Sunshine State’s bill, told WLTX.
Many of these symbolic debates within public schools are reflective of the larger culture wars. With the rise of pluralism, these debates have grown. Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture sociologist James Davison Hunter has not only outlined the parameters of the culture war, but has also suggest ways forward to address its growing challenge. In Articles of Faith, Articles of Peace: The Religious Liberty Clauses and American Public Philosophy, he writes, “In the end, the religious clauses of the First Amendment concern both rights and responsibilities—the right to live according to the convictions of conscience without state interference and coercion, and the responsibility to respect that right for others, including the repudiation of all direct and indirect patronage of the state, whether for others or oneself.”
Teachers and principals working to strengthen moral and citizenship formation in their students can find information and strategies at the UK’s The Jubilee Centre. In The Jubilee Centre’s own words, the following illustrates how the centre views it work. “The Jubilee Centre is a pioneering interdisciplinary research centre on character, virtues and values in the interest of human flourishing. The Centre is a leading informant on policy and practice through its extensive range of projects contributes to a renewal of character virtues in both individuals and society.”