A new Louisiana law took effect last week requiring the national motto “In God We Trust” to be displayed in all public school classrooms in the state. When the upcoming school year begins, all public elementary, secondary, and higher education classrooms will need to display the motto.
House Bill 8, signed into law by Governor John Bel Edwards in June 2023, amends Louisiana’s existing law which only required schools to display the motto in at least one location. The measure passed both the Louisiana House and Senate chambers without any votes cast in opposition.
Under the law, students are to receive instruction on “patriotic customs,” including teaching on the “In God We Trust” motto. To support this instruction, the law specifies that motto displays are to be “a poster or framed document that is at least 11 inches by 14 inches” and the motto must be “the central focus” of the display and be “printed in a large, easily readable font.”
The law also clarifies that public schools are not required to use their “funds to purchase national motto displays” and “may accept donated displays.”
At least 10 other states which require the national motto to be displayed at public schools include Arkansas, Florida, Kentucky, Mississippi, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, and Virginia. “In God We Trust” became part of Florida’s seal in 1868 and is the state motto of Florida.
“In God We Trust” made its first appearance on U.S. currency in 1865 when Congress passed an act placing the phrase on all coins. In 1956, the 84th U.S. Congress passed a joint resolution later signed by President Dwight D. Eisenhower making “In God We Trust” the national motto. The motto has been used on all United States paper money since 1957. The constitutionality of the motto was challenged in 1970 in Aronow v. United States and again in 2006 in Newdow v. United States Congress, but the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals determined in both cases that the phrase “has nothing whatsoever to do with the establishment of religion.” In 1979, O’Hair v. Blumenthal also unsuccessfully challenged the motto.
Liberty Counsel Founder and Chairman Mat Staver said, “The display of our national motto ‘In God We Trust’ and teaching about it in schools educates children about our national history. America was founded upon Judeo-Christian values. The Declaration of Independence declares that our rights come from God, not government. Acknowledging this undeniable heritage is not only constitutional, it’s imperative to sustaining a collective memory of how our nation came to be. Now that the 1971 ‘Lemon Test’ has been overturned by the Supreme Court, religious symbols, words, displays, and viewpoints will have more breathing room.”