‘In God We Trust’ Display Mandate in School

This is a strange time in The Controversy between evolution and creationism. Compared to the early days of this blog, there’s really nothing going on.

Creationist litigation just isn’t happening. A few years ago there was always some creationist suing his school for not letting him teach creationism, or for not giving him tenure, or for not renewing his contract. Lawyers seem unwilling to take such cases these days, because they’re always losers. And of course, there’s virtually no activity in the legislative area. There are still idiots in the legislatures — loads of them — but their creationist efforts never seem go get anywhere.

Creationist outfits like ol’ Hambo’s operation are functioning and doing reasonably well, but they rarely generate any news for us to write about. If it weren’t for the goofy stuff they post on their blogs, we’d never mention them. As for the Discoveroids, well, they’re getting stranger by the month.

So what does a creationist politician do when everything seems to be going against him? He writes goofy laws. This is an example which appears in the New York Daily News: Public schools in South Dakota are now required to show ‘In God We Trust’ on their walls. Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us for emphasis, and occasional Curmudgeonly interjections that look [like this]:

Separation of church and state? Not in that state. A new bill in South Dakota that recently took effect now requires the national motto “In God We Trust” to be displayed on public school walls. Students can expect the saying to be on their walls for the 2019-2020 academic year.

According to Wikipedia, In God We Trust became the national motto of the US in 1956. We didn’t have an official motto before that. E pluribus unum was the nation’s unofficial motto.

So we Googled around and found the South Dakota bill. Here it is (with our bold font for emphasis): Senate Bill 55. It reads as follows:


Section 1. That chapter 13-24 be amended by adding a NEW SECTION to read:

Beginning in the 2019-2020 school year, the national motto of the United States, “In God We Trust,” shall be displayed in each public school. The display shall be located in a prominent location within each public school. The display may take the form of a mounted plaque, student artwork, or any other appropriate form as determined by the school principal.

For the purposes of this section, a prominent location is a school entryway, cafeteria, or other common area where students are most likely to see the national motto display.

Section 2. That chapter 13-24 be amended by adding a NEW SECTION to read:

For any lawsuit brought or any complaint filed against a school district, an employee of a school district, the board of a school district, or a member thereof as a result of a school district displaying the national motto of the United States in accordance with section 1 of this Act, the attorney general shall provide legal representation at no cost to the school district, employee, school board, or member of the school board.

That’s it. That’s the whole thing. Signed by the Governor on March 18, 2019.

What do we make of it? There’s not much to be said. This isn’t like teaching creationism in a science class, so we can’t get too worked up over it. But it’s a peculiar thing for the state to be doing.

We understand that other states also have such a requirement, but we can’t find a list anywhere. It doesn’t matter. There are certainly stranger things a legislature could be doing, so we’ll let this slide by. But please, dear reader, if you have some objection that we’ve overlooked, let us hear from you.

Copyright © 2019. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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23 responses to “‘In God We Trust’ Display Mandate in School

  1. I suppose they have to trust someone, it aint like the teachers, principle, or school board can be trusted.

  2. Those students who don’t believe in the gods or supernatural nonsense are simply ignored, steamrolled if you will out the door. At least nobody has to say the words, yet. There’s always the pledge, but they aren’t required to say the two magic words there either.

  3. There may be some connection to the fact that the same state had a particularly bad year trying to pass creationism bills — see South Dakota: Three Creationist Bills Dead.

  4. Legislators have to be seen doing something. This is cheap, mollifies the Christian droollers, and avoids real problems such as climate change, poverty, voting rights, etc. But hey, better to trust a nonexistent entity than take responsibility yourself.

  5. Dave Luckett

    It’s weird. I would have thought such a display was an automatic violation of the First Amendment, but no-o-o. It wouldn’t occur to a state school or a legislature here to do that – Church schools another matter, of course – and we have no mandated separation of Church and State. Her Majesty is “Defender of the Faith” and head of the established Church and all that. State schools may and often do have “Chaplains”, although there is no requirement that those persons have any particular creed or belief. But still, what with “no faith” more than 30% of the population now, putting up “In God we trust” on a wall someplace is just asking for trouble.

    Take pity upon the ignorance of a foreigner – is it likely that somebody will challenge the constitutionality of such a State law/

  6. Retired Prof

    The trouble with the “we” in that motto is that it seems to claim that belief in God is unanimous within the jurisdiction, which is almost certainly false.

    It would be stylistically awkward to make it more accurate with some such rephrasing as “In God we (except for a few sinful skeptics) trust,” or the slightly less clunky “In God most of us trust.”

    If we change just two words, we can keep the stylistic neatness and achieve complete accuracy: “In gods we doubt.”

    It’s a safe bet that a few South Dakotans trust no gods at all; they can claim kinship with the majority who doubt all gods except one. In fact, the revised motto should be fine with everybody. It is hard to believe there is anybody who trusts all gods, especially since many pantheons include trickster gods, untrustworthy by nature.

  7. Michael Fugate

    It’s not religious, it’s just a motto.

  8. “It’s not religious, it’s just a motto.”

    And since all gawds are religious inventions that obviously means that any mention of any gawd isn’t religious at all.*

    *Creationists “thinking” at it’s finest.

  9. chris schilling

    In God we’re trussed?

    I’m bound for the Lake of Fire, so it makes sense to bind me up like a goose to be roasted — oh so tenderly and slowly.

  10. There’s nothing to stop a school from putting up additional signs. They could even put a blackboard next to the mandatory motto, so the students could write anything they wanted — even “For a good time, call Lulu!” Communist China used to have Democracy Wall.

  11. There is the old joke about a country store that has a sign: “In God we trust. Alll others pay cash.”

  12. TNX to TomS for a reminder. Ralph Gould didn’t put this on his walls, but her did put it into his autobio, Yankee Storekeeper: “God seems like a nice enough chap, but you’d wonder how somebody in that position has so much poor help.”

  13. But even those who believe in God don’t always trust him. Kindly offer them to hold a Black Mamba in their bare hands and see how many do a runner.

  14. Eddie Janssen

    How long will it take before someone adds “I don’t!”?

  15. You fools!

    Can’t y’all see that this is an insidious Communist plot to corrupt the youth of America and pollute our precious bodily fluids! It’s plain as day that In God We Trust is in fact an anagram with sinister subliminal messages, viz.

    I Net Two Drugs
    Nude Grow Nude T*ts
    &c &c

  16. Double nudity? Ooops!!

  17. Right in the front lobby on the back of a business card, print “in god we trust” in the smallest font available and then stick it on the wall at least six feet up. You will have complied with the law and with the Constitution (mostly).
    The law requires it to be posted in a prominent location, not prominently posted. Another example of incompetent law makers.

  18. I say, the handicap toilet would be pretty prominent.

  19. In God We Trust; Like Yoda We Speak.

    Some one needs to ask, “Which god?” The S.D. legislature needs to at least define “god”. I’m sure the students want to know.

  20. Courts will probably not strike it down. Previous efforts to get the motto off our money has resulted in the courts holding that it’s not religious, it’s just custom and so it doesn’t count. Same reason there is still a Brandesburg (?) cross from last month.

  21. I love that they didn’t even pretend to offer a reason for it. “Just trust us, we know what we’re doing!”

    PA theocrats are trying to pull the same nonsense under cover of “history and heritage”. Here’s some of their “reasoning” from the bill text:

    (6) To increase student understanding of and familiarity with American historical documents, historically important excerpts from or copies of the documents should be prominently displayed in public school buildings.

    (7) The Federal 5th, 9th and 10th Circuit Courts have ruled that displaying the national motto passes constitutional muster so long as the purpose of the display is to advance or endorse the national motto rather than a particular religious belief or practice.


  22. The question is whether having an explicitly religious national motto at all is constitutional.