“In God We Trust” will be displayed at all Louisiana public schools this school year after a bill was signed into law last year requiring the schools to display the national motto.
Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat, signed the bill into law on May 29, 2018. Schools were given a phase-in period but required to display the motto no later than the 2019-2020 school year.
“The nature of the display shall be determined by each governing 21 authority with a minimum requirement of a paper sign,” the bill (pdf) states.
It also requires schools to provide instruction on the U.S. flag to fifth-graders as part of the social studies curriculum.
“Such instruction, at a minimum, shall include the history of the American flag, etiquette, customs pertaining to the display and use of the flag, and such other patriotic exercises customs as provided by and in accordance with the provisions of 15 36 U.S.C. 170 et seq. on patriotic customs,” it stated.
At least one principal supports the move.
“I still feel strongly that America is a Christian nation,” Shelby Ainsworth, principal of West Monroe High School, told KNOE recently. “I want our high school youngsters exposed to as much as that as possible.”
He said that some students or parents might not agree, and that’s fine.
“There are varied opinions even amongst high school students, their parents, the communities, the different churches that are represented, different faiths that we have,” said Ainsworth. “It’s nothing hidden, it’s nothing swept under the rug, but it’s nothing forced upon anyone.”
State Sen. Regina Barrow, a Democrat, introduced the bill. During a legislative hearing on the measure, Barrow said she thinks “it’s really important that young people understand the patriotic history” of the country,” reported WDSU.
At least two other states have similar laws.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott signed a bill in March 2018 requiring schools to display the phrase.
And South Dakota passed a law in March requiring public schools to display “In God We Trust” in a prominent position in the school, in lettering at least 12 inches high.
Officials said some schools had plaques while others painted it on walls.
According to the Department of Treasury, the motto “was placed on United States coins largely because of the increased religious sentiment existing during the Civil War.”
Congress later passed an act in April 1864 allowing “In God We Trust” to be placed on coins, after a push from Treasury Secretary Salmon Chase. He had asked James Pollack, director of the Mint, to come up with a motto.
“No nation can be strong except in the strength of God, or safe except in His defense. The trust of our people in God should be declared on our national coins. You will cause a device to be prepared without unnecessary delay with a motto expressing in the fewest and tersest words possible this national recognition,” he wrote.
The motto hasn’t appeared on all coins, disappearing on the five-cent coin in 1883 and not reappearing until 1938. Since then, though, all coins have borne the motto. It was first used on paper money in 1957, after President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed a law officially declaring “In God We Trust” to be the nation’s motto and mandating that the motto be printed on all paper currency.
He also moved to include “under God” in the pledge of allegiance.
“In this way we are reaffirming the transcendence of religious faith in America’s heritage and future; in this way we shall constantly strengthen those spiritual weapons which forever will be our country’s most powerful resource in peace and war,” he said.