Public schools in Tennessee soon could be required to post “In God We Trust” in a “prominent location” if the governor signs a bill that cleared the state legislature this week.
“Our national motto and our founding documents are the cornerstones of freedom,” the bill’s sponsor, Republican state Rep. Susan Lynn, said in a statement. “They must be shared with our future generations.
“I am honored to have sponsored passage of an initiative that will remind our current and future students about the true foundations for American life, faith and family,” said Lynn, a Southern Baptist from the Nashville area.
The bill, known as the National Motto in the Classroom Act, passed the Tennessee House of Representatives March 19 by an 81-8 margin. It cleared the state senate unanimously two weeks earlier.
The legislation would apply to every public school in Tennessee beginning with the 2018-19 academic year and require placement of the national motto in an “entry way, cafeteria, or common area where students are likely to see the … display.” A “mounted plaque or student artwork” are two formats the bill suggests for posting “In God We Trust.”
Randy Davis, executive director of the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board, expressed support for the state legislature’s action.
“You cannot argue a case before the United States Supreme Court without seeing the words, ‘In God we trust,’” David said. “I would be very encouraged for the sake of my grandkids to see this motto in their schools. I’m thankful for this action by our Tennessee law makers.”
“In God We Trust” first appeared on the two-cent coin in 1864 and became the national motto in 1956, according to the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s website.
Lynn’s office said the legislation was “brought to” her by the Congressional Prayer Caucus Foundation. The foundation’s website states a vision to “protect religious freedom, preserve America’s Judeo-Christian heritage and promote prayer.”
The Tennessean newspaper reported the Tennessee legislation “appears to be part of a wave of similar ‘In God We Trust’ bills” being considered this year by other states, including Arkansas, Florida, Oklahoma and Wyoming.
At least 19 other states have passed laws similar to the one approved by Tennessee lawmakers, Lynn’s office said, “in an effort to educate future generations of school students about the importance of the national motto.”
The legislation was sent to Tennessee’s Republican Gov. Bill Haslam March 22 for his action.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – With reporting by Lonnie Wilkey, editor of Tennessee’s Baptist and Reflector news journal. David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)