March 5, 2021

Arkansas Mandates ‘In God We Trust’ National Motto Display Act For Schools

"In God We Trust" on a blue sign
Arkansas schools will display "In God We Trust," sending a message that's not about "religious freedom."

The red state of Arkansas is about to mandate the national motto, “In God We Trust” be placed in elementary and secondary schools.

Framed pictures or posters of the national motto are to be hung above the American flag in libraries and classrooms, according to NBC affiliate, KARK. Superintendents are reviewing the new law as citizens weigh in.

Taxpayer money won’t be used to pay for the displays. Instead, private organizations or voluntary contributions to the school boards or Building Authority Division of the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration will finance the pictures. The national motto is required for public buildings maintained or operated by the state.

The Republican party in Arkansas has long politicized the idea of the words “In God We Trust.” In 2012, the Arkansas GOP ran attack ads against Democrats, saying, “This isn’t your Grandpa’s Democratic party” when some objected to including the words in the party platform.

See the short video below:

Going back to May 2015, Arkansas’s Garland County Treasurer, Timmy Stockdale introduced a resolution to require the words, “In God We Trust” on County Buildings, having already placed the words on nearly every wall in the Treasury Department. He stated that he prayed to “make good decisions with the people’s money” and wanted to see “In God We Trust” in the offices of “all the elected officials.”

Nevermind those official’s religious persuasion? Nevermind the concept of “religious freedom” that, at least on the surface, flimsily considers including those who aren’t Christian.

Stockdale responded to the criticism with, “I trust in God. I don’t care what they say.”

See him say it for yourself in the video below:

Today, Stockdale must be a happy Christian camper to see the new law. The law states that a “durable poster or framed copy” of the national motto be placed centered above the U.S. and Arkansas flag. The very small loophole: Funds have to be made available from contributions. No word on if they will take contributions from Muslims or atheists. Probably not…

So much for the feigned, “religious freedom”…

The Secular Coalition, the national lobby for atheists, humanists, agnostics, freethinkers and other secular Americans, responded to the news in Arkansas:

“Instead of a motto that declares faith in God, use the original motto which declares faith in people #EPluribusUnum”

The unofficial national motto, E Pluribus Unum, is Latin for “Out of many, one.” It was the motto proposed by Founding Fathers John Adams, Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson in 1776.

Many religious conservatives do not approve of the use of E Pluribus Unum, having expressed outrage when Hillary Clinton used the motto in her acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention in 2016.

The interesting reason that E Pluribus Unum was replaced with “In God We Trust” as the official motto in 1956:

“E Pluribus Unum” was considered the de facto motto of the United States until 1956 when the United States Congress passed an act (H. J. Resolution 396), adopting “In God We Trust” as the official motto.

Congress approved the use of the national motto amid the “red scare” of “communist atheism” during the Cold War. Fear of the Soviet Union was high. Paradoxically, religious conservatives today seem to have little to no concern that their chosen president may have colluded with the Russians.

In November 2011, the House passed a resolution reaffirming the official motto, citing “a crisis of national identity and mass confusion among Americans about their nation’s motto” after Obama had cited E Pluribus Unum as the motto in a speech in Indonesia.

A “self-avowed atheist” from Woodville, Texas sued Obama and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke in 2009, stating that seeing “In God We Trust” on money violated his church-state separation principles. A federal appeals court ruled in the end that it didn’t violate the establishment clause of the First Amendment. The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals referred back to prior cases in 2003, 2005, and going as far back as Aronow v. United States in 1970. In that year, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals wrote, “It is quite obvious that the national motto and slogan on coinage and currency ‘In God We Trust’ has nothing whatsoever to do with the establishment of religion.”

How a court could arrive at the conclusion that God has nothing to do with religion is certainly a mystery. Would that conclusion still stand if Arkansas’ new law is brought before the Supreme Court today? We might find out…

At any rate, now schools can proudly display “In God We Trust” in Arkansas with picture displays -at long last. Will that display of religious assertion make a difference at all? Does it matter if some of the kids aren’t religious? Does it matter if some of them are Muslim or atheist? Or will the real message be, “You’re in Arkansas now. If you aren’t like us, don’t expect our trust. Out of many religions, one.”

Featured image: Screenshot from YouTube

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