Religious Law

Several states pass laws authorizing 'In God We Trust' motto in schools and other public buildings

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Public schools could provide a new legal battleground on religion in public venues as more states pass laws authorizing the posting of “In God We Trust” in public schools.

Seven states passed laws this year requiring or permitting schools and other public buildings to post “In God We Trust, the Washington Post reports. Arizona, meanwhile, allowed schools this year to post the state’s motto, “God Enriches.”

Voters in Alabama took a different tack when they passed a ballot measure allowing the Ten Commandments to be posted on government property. A Ten Commandments monument was a source of controversy for the state’s former chief justice, Roy Moore. He had installed the monument in the building that houses the court, and he was suspended from the state supreme court in 2003 when he refused to follow a federal court order to remove it.

Americans United for Separation of Church and State identifies six of the states in a Sept. 13 blog post as Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Louisiana, North Carolina and Tennessee. The Washington Post does not identify all the states in its seven-state total—only Florida.

The Washington Post notes long-running battles over religion in public schools. The U.S. Supreme Court has struck down school-sponsored prayer; mandatory Bible readings; clergy prayer at graduation; and school-sponsored, student-led prayer. But the court said schools couldn’t discriminate against religious groups that want to rent out school facilities.

The Congressional Prayer Caucus Foundation is supporting laws that bring religion back to the schools with an initiative it calls Project Blitz, Forbes reported in September. The group has distributed a 116-page manual with bill templates, and the first is for laws authorizing the motto “In God We Trust” in public schools.

Supporters of such laws hope they will be upheld by a Supreme Court that includes President Donald Trump’s appointees, Justices Neil M. Gorsuch and Brett M. Kavanaugh.

A Chicago man who challenged the motto “In God We Trust” on U.S. currency lost his case earlier this year, the Chicago Tribune reported at the time. The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals at Chicago ruled against self-described satanist Kenneth Mayle in a May 31 opinion.

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