Legislature poised to mandate “In God We Trust” signs in all TN schools

A bill mandating “prominent” display of the words “in God we trust” in all Tennessee schools was approved unanimously without debate in the state Senate and got only one recorded ‘no’ vote in clearing House committees as it heads to a floor vote.

Officially entitled the “National Motto in the Classroom Act,” SB2661 was not discussed in the Senate Judiciary Committee beyond a brief description by the sponsor, Sen. Paul Bailey (R-Sparta) before winning unanimous approval. The full Senate also approved unanimously on Monday without debate with the measure included in a “consent calendar” of non-controversial legislation.

In the House Education Administration and Planning Committee, Rep. Johnnie Turner (D-Memphis) declared that she believes in God, but “that being said, I’m also sensitive to other religions” and those with conflicting beliefs “should not be forced to face in God we trust” in schools.

Rep. Susan Lynn (R-Old Hickory) replied that the “wonderful national motto” is already in widespread use on coins, state-issued license plates and elsewhere and “people of other faiths, they all believe in God.”

Reps. Ron Lollar (R-Bartlett) and Terri Lynn Weaver (R-Lancaster) made speeches supporting the bill. Lollar said displays of the motto would help teach children “what our principles are” and Weaver praised Lynn’s suggestion that the display requirement could be met by having students do artwork incorporating the phrase.

House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh (D-Ripley) said “I don’t have a problem” with the bill. Though it puts a “small burden” on schools, he said, “I think we need more indoctrination into what our country is really all about.” Still, he said, “it’s a sign about making ourselves feel better” and the message to store sign saying “we sell the best ice cream in town.”

The House committee approved the bill on voice vote with Turner asking to be recorded as voting no, according to the legislative website.

The bill declares that the mandate will take effect for the 2018-19 school year with the display in a “”prominent location.” That phrase is defined as “a school entry way, cafeteria, or common area where students are likely to see the national motto display.”

Note: Lynn said 17 other states have passed similar laws.  In some, the measure is apparently producing more attention and debate. See, for example, CNN’s report on the Florida bill and the Kansas City Star on the measure before the Oklahoma legislature. There’s also an ongoing discussion in the Wyoming legislature, according to the AP.

13 Responses to Legislature poised to mandate “In God We Trust” signs in all TN schools

  • old woman voter says:

    Don’t forget to add ” in addition to a good guy with a gun and classroom standards.”

  • Leslie Parsley says:

    I challenge Ms Lynn to furnish a source naming the 17 states where a law is on the books allowing or requiring public schools in the U.S to display signs with the “national motto”. This does not apply to the hand full of bills that have been introduced recently or to any states where the hoped for law has not gone through normal review by the courts, including SCOTUS.

  • Eddie White says:

    Wow, it takes a really angry and fearful person to reject placing In God We Trust in a school. What are these people afraid of? Can bringing the name of God into the schools really do harm to our children? Will it drive them to do something crazy, like think about something that is moral or spiritual in nature?

  • Donna Locke says:

    Meanwhile, while our legislature continues to waste everyone’s time and money …

  • David Collins says:

    You are missing the point, Mr. White. The Constitution prohibits the government from doing anything that would imply the government is attempting to establish a religion. Just like it can’t prohibit a given religion, it cannot favor one over the other. There are some existing religions that don’t use the name “God”. Their deity has a different name. The only way to do what the legislature is attempting to do that would be neutral would be to have a sign that included all of these possible names for a given religion’s deity. And then the non-believers would still have a legitimate beef. The best and fairest approach is to keep them all out and people are free to believe in whatever or whomever they please outside of the public schools.

  • Robert Bravender says:

    I believe “in god we trust” has only been in use on paper currency since 1957. This doesn’t justify it’s use in schools.

  • Charles Sumner says:

    IN GOD WE TRUST.
    SHOULD THIS BE POSTED IN EVERY SCHOOL?

    A bill before the Tennessee Legislature called “The National Motto in the Classroom Act” specifies that IN GOD WE TRUST must be displayed prominently in every Tennessee public school. I would like to ask that SB2661 by Bailey and HB2368 by Lynn be withdrawn, not passed. It is true that legal cases have not stated that similar actions are unconstitutional, but when the statement is controversial and offensive to some, it would seem wise not to sow discord.

    That statement was made the National Motto and a requirement on all United States currency and coinage in 1956. This was a period of time when the Cold War was on against “Godless Communism.” People opposed to Communism felt the need to declare that they were not on that side. The original usage of the statement on any US coinage was brought about by a group of clergy calling themselves the National Reform Association. It was this group which also wanted to alter the US Constitution to make this a Christian nation. When one of theirs became Director of the Mint, in 1864 he ordered the words to be placed on a two-cent coin.

    There were over 200 attempts to alter the Constitution to somehow dedicate the nation to Jesus or otherwise turn it into a Christian nation, but they all failed, and we continue to have a secular constitution with separation of church and state.

    What is the purpose of promoting the phrase, IN GOD WE TRUST? Is it a desire to promote belief? I believe that it is, and therefore it is not appropriate to mandate it for children. This is an attempt to place all educators in the position of advocating belief in God to their students. The insertion of UNDER GOD in the Pledge is a similar attempt. Whether a child believes in God should be between him or her and parents and not influenced by posters mandated by government. Government is supposed to be neutral on the subject of belief and religion. The recent flurry of attempts to place on police cars brought out the thought that non-believers might think they could not get fair treatment from police. And in fact, surveys have shown that non-believers are not trusted by large segments of our society.

    Would IN ALLAH WE TRUST be acceptable to you as a substitute? Consider IN JESUS WE TRUST. What about IN A TRIUNE GOD WE TRUST?

    A large element in our population does not believe in trust in God. They believe that whatever is accomplished on Earth is the result of what people do. They do not believe that trust in the supernatural will accomplish anything. They believe in science. Their believe is personal – whatever their consciences tell them is their truth. By promoting belief in God, the posting in schools is attacking the beliefs of humanists and atheists, who (according to Article VI of the US Constitution) are worthy citizens as much as are believers in various faiths. This was also the viewpoint stated by Thomas Jefferson.

    the original national motto, approved by our Founders, is much more appropriate and less divisive. It would be better in these days to say OUT OF MANY, ONE (E PLURIBUS UNUM) than trying to put a majoritarian motto on a wall in every school or classroom. We have sufficient divisiveness already.
    CHARLES SUMNER
    Americans United

  • Eddie White says:

    The argument by Mr. Collins is bogus. It is often repeated by those who are constantly monitoring God in the public domain. The founders of our republic wanted to prevent the establishment of an official church as they had in England. There was never an intent to remove God from the public spaces. God was acknowledged in every branch and level of government which acknowledged our Judeo-Christian hertitage.

  • Joe Benedict says:

    Lets see now – move a body, take down a statue, cut fine for gun permit, ban child marriage, place a slogan, etc. – if this was my management team charged with improving things for my employees and growing my business, I would have to let them go elsewhere. They are not thinking big picture – we deserve better.

  • Jack E Chambers says:

    No one who says with a straight face that “people of all faiths believe in God” should be let anywhere near a legislative body. Or a school, for that matter. As mentioned elsewhere, the Motto was a blatant Cold War effort to reject the evils of communism, just like the bastardized addition of “under God” to the Pledge of Allegiance.

    And to Mister White: am I “fearful” because I reject the effort to launch the blatantly unconstitutional affront of attempted organized religion in our schools? No. But I *am* angry. Because nonsense like this reflects poorly on us all.

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