It is a tale as old as time: what does religious freedom look like? Currently, lawmakers in Kansas are having this conversation as they deliberate over including the phrase “In God We Trust” in all public buildings, including schools, libraries and colleges.
The House bill was introduced by Republican representatives and on Thursday, Jan. 30, 2020, there was a hearing regarding the bill.
If passed, it would require the phrase to be in large font on a poster that is “at least 11 inches wide by 14 inches high” and it must be “the central focus of such display.” While oddly specific, the bill does read that the display is only allowed if funds permit it and if those funds were donated. The bill faced opposition from Democrats, and the American Atheists organization pointed out that a bill like this would disparage nonbelievers and religious minorities.
The First Amendment does allow religious freedom but also prohibits public school officials from promoting or advancing religion. There was also Stone v. Graham (1980), a Supreme Court decision that prohibited schools from displaying religious messages, and “In God We Trust” is a religious message.
There are also the guidelines established by the U.S. Department of Education, one of which is that schools can’t discriminate against private religious expression, and this motto is far from inclusive considering that many religions are polytheistic, meaning they believe in multiple gods.
The phrase “In God We Trust” is the official motto of the U.S. and was adopted during the Civil War. The phrase became the official motto in 1956 and began appearing on paper money and coins ever since.
However, there is another motto that not many know about: “E Pluribus Unum,” which means “out of many, one.” This motto can be found on the Great Seal of the U.S. which was adopted in 1782. During his speech at the University of Indonesia in Jakarta, former President Barack Obama claimed that “E Pluribus Unum” is the motto of the U.S. The motto adopted by the founding fathers is all-inclusive.
There is no reason for Kansas to consider plastering the motto “In God We Trust” all over the state’s public buildings. Most, if not all, know the motto of the U.S., so sticking it all over public buildings is aggressive and uncalled for. There are bigger things we as a nation need to focus on and this is not one of them.
Iana Fields is a freshman studying English creative writing at Ohio University. Please note that the views and opinions of the columnists do not reflect those of The Post.
Want to talk to Iana? Tweet her @FieldsIana.