‘In God We Trust’ signs go­ing up in schools

Westside Eagle-Observer - - NEWS - DAVE PEROZEK dper­ozek@nwadg.com

ARKANSAS — Hun­dreds of posters pro­claim­ing the na­tional motto, “In God we trust,” have been dis­trib­uted and soon will be on dis­play in some of North­west Arkansas’ pub­lic schools.

Act 911 of last year’s leg­isla­tive ses­sion re­quires the state’s pub­lic schools to dis­play durable posters fea­tur­ing the motto, as well as the U.S. and Arkansas state flags, if the posters are do­nated. They may be dis­played in each pub­lic el­e­men­tary and sec­ondary school class­room and li­brary or any pub­lic build­ing in Arkansas main­tained or op­er­ated us­ing state money.

State Rep. Jim Dot­son, R-Ben­tonville, sponsored the bill that be­came Act 911. Only three law­mak­ers voted against it.

No pub­lic dol­lars pay for the posters, Dot­son said. He ap­peared at the Ben­tonville School Board’s Feb. 19 meet­ing to present framed copies of the posters to board mem­bers. He an­nounced 891 framed posters were be­ing do­nated to the Ben­tonville School Dis­trict.

The posters for Ben­tonville, along with 222 for the Pea Ridge School Dis­trict, were do­nated by the Amer­i­can His­tory and Her­itage Foun­da­tion, an Arkansas-based group led by state Sen. Ja­son Rapert, R-Con­way. Amer­i­can Le­gion Post 77 of Ben­tonville raised about $1,500 for the frames, for which Hobby Lobby gave a dis­count, Dot­son said.

Ray Brust, an Amer­i­can Le­gion mem­ber, ex­pressed grat­i­tude to those who con­trib­uted money for the frames.

“I and ev­ery­body that I know are very pos­i­tive on this law,” Brust said. “I think it’s some­thing that will help not only the at­mos­phere, but it’s some­thing we do need for our youth. I think ev­ery­one knows our youth are lack­ing in cer­tain ar­eas of information about the United States and what we stand for.”

Leslee Wright, com­mu­ni­ca­tions direc­tor for Ben­tonville Schools, said the dis­trict fa­cil­i­ties de­part­ment’s goal is to have all posters up by spring break, which is in two weeks.

Posters also are be­ing do­nated to schools in Gravette, Gen­try and Siloam Springs, Dot­son said.

Rogers School Dis­trict ad­min­is­tra­tors said they weren’t aware of any posters be­ing do­nated. Dot­son, how­ever, said he dropped off 100 posters for a Repub­li­can club at Rogers High School a cou­ple of months ago, and the Repub­li­can Party of Ben­ton County pur­chased frames for those posters.

Com­mu­ni­ca­tions di­rec­tors for Spring­dale and Fayetteville school dis­tricts said they weren’t aware of any posters do­nated to their dis­tricts.

Op­po­si­tion

Not ev­ery­one likes the law.

Amer­i­can Athe­ists, a New Jer­sey-based or­ga­ni­za­tion ded­i­cated to the sep­a­ra­tion of church and state, sent let­ters in Septem­ber to Arkansas school su­per­in­ten­dents urg­ing them to re­ject the posters, sug­gest­ing dis­play­ing them would vi­o­late the es­tab­lish­ment clause of the First Amend­ment.

The letter said par­ents from across Arkansas who were will­ing to file suit “to pro­tect the con­sti­tu­tional rights of their chil­dren” had con­tacted the Amer­i­can Athe­ists Le­gal Cen­ter.

The Free­dom From Re­li­gion Foun­da­tion, based in Madi­son, Wis., also has ob­jected to Act 911 and said it would fight it.

“The pur­pose be­hind the law is clear: to use the ma­chin­ery of the state to pro­mote Chris­tian­ity,” the foun­da­tion stated in a news release last week.

Casey Good­man ex­pressed his dis­plea­sure at a Ben­tonville School Board meet­ing. He said he’s an Air Force vet­eran and his spouse works in the school dis­trict.

“You know more than half your teach­ers don’t want that there,” Good­man said.

Good­man sug­gested the money for the posters would be bet­ter spent for food or men­tal-health treat­ment for home­less veter­ans.

Dot­son said peo­ple have the right to con­trib­ute money to any cause or project and re­it­er­ated tax dol­lars did not pay for the posters. The “vast ma­jor­ity” of teach­ers he’s heard from sup­port the poster project, Dot­son said.

Dot­son is run­ning for re­elec­tion to his Dis­trict 93 House seat this year. Gan Nun­nally, a Ben­tonville busi­ness­man, is run­ning against him in the Repub­li­can pri­mary elec­tion, to be held May 22. Gay­a­tri Agnew is run­ning for the seat as a Demo­crat.

His­tory

Dot­son, when asked why he pur­sued the law, said he be­lieves his­tory and her­itage are im­por­tant. Many peo­ple, es­pe­cially chil­dren, are not aware “In God we trust” is the na­tional motto, he said. “So put­ting it up and dis­play­ing it is some­thing I think is very valu­able,” Dot­son said.

The motto can be traced back to the Civil War, ac­cord­ing to information provided on the U.S. De­part­ment of the Trea­sury’s web­site.

Salmon P. Chase, the Trea­sury sec­re­tary, re­ceived a letter in Novem­ber 1861 from a Pennsylvania min­is­ter, who re­quested “recog­ni­tion of the Almighty God in some form on our coins.”

Chase wrote to the direc­tor of the mint in Philadel­phia in­struct­ing him to pre­pare a motto to be in­cluded on coins that ex­pressed the trust Amer­i­cans have in God. Chase sug­gested “In God we trust,” which first ap­peared on the 1864 2-cent coin, ac­cord­ing to the Trea­sury De­part­ment.

A law passed by Congress and signed by Pres­i­dent Dwight Eisen­hower in 1956 de­clared “In God we trust” the na­tional motto of the United States. The first pa­per cur­rency bear­ing the motto en­tered cir­cu­la­tion on Oct. 1, 1957. All U.S. coins have in­cluded the motto since 1938, ac­cord­ing to the Trea­sury De­part­ment.

Else­where

Leg­is­la­tion sim­i­lar to Arkansas’ Act 911 has been in­tro­duced and is mak­ing progress in two states.

■ In Florida, a bill re­quir­ing “In God we trust” be dis­played “in a con­spic­u­ous place” in ev­ery school and ad­min­is­tra­tive build­ing passed the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives last month by a 97-10 vote. The Se­nate has not yet con­sid­ered the mea­sure.

■ In Ok­la­homa, state Sen. Wayne Shaw’s bill re­quires posters fea­tur­ing “In God we trust,” as well as the U.S. and Ok­la­homa state flags, be dis­played in pub­lic school class­rooms and li­braries, as well as any other pub­lic build­ing main­tained or op­er­ated with state money. The posters must be do­nated to the schools. A Se­nate com­mit­tee passed the bill by a 6-4 vote Feb. 19 and the Se­nate Ap­pro­pri­a­tions Com­mit­tee ap­proved it by a 33-4 vote Thursday.

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