"In God We Trust" in schools?

My local school board has approved the hanging of plaques bearing the words “In God We Trust” in every classroom at the local public high school (and maybe the middle and elementary schools, but I’m not sure about that). Is this acceptable?

The plaques were donated by a local Baptist church. Does this change matters?

My Gov’t & Economics teacher seems to think this is a big deal. He is also under the impression that he must put the plaque on the wall, that he may not refuse. A fellow student in the class, whose father is on the board, says that her father said it is supposed to be the teacher’s decision to put up the plaque.
(Sidenote: My Gov’t & Economics teacher has very little free wall space, so the plaque is now covered with miscellaneous papers.)
My personal opinion is that the plaques are distracting, not attractive, and over-large. But perhaps asthetics isn’t the important issue here.

I put this in Great Debates because it deals with the Constitution and Freedom of Speech, which may be a controversial issue. I apologize in advance if it belongs in IMHO or GQ.

No, it’s not acceptable. I would recommend you contact your local branch of the ACLU or Americans United for Separation of Church and State. Or let me know what school district you’re in and I’ll contact them myself. Feel free to e-mail me privately.

One question – has the Board “approved” the plaques or mandated them? (I’m not sure there is a legal difference, but it would be good to know anyway.)

Well, I’m not sure. G&E teacher thinks they’ve been mandated, but Daughter of Board Member thinks they’ve just been approved. I do know that this morning the vocational students came in during first period and assembly-lined the job-- one kid drilled a hole in the concrete, another kid put a plastic thingie in the hole, a third kid screwed a screw into the plastic, and a fourth kid hung the plaque. At no point did anyone say “mind if we put this plaque up?”

This is the Marshall County school district, in Western Kentucky. Same school district that, 6 years ago, glued pages of science textbooks together because they talked about the “big bang theory”.

I’m pretty sure the high school’s JSA club will try to do something about this. Personally, I think it’d be a good thing for the club to do-- this is its first year, and it’s not been off to a good start. It needs to draw attention to itself. We have a meeting tomorrow-- I’ll bring it up.

“Thank God for Kentucky.”

Indiana’s state motto.

What can you do? It’s the national motto. It could be “Stalin is the greatest man in history!” and they could do it just the same. Welcome to America, land of contradiction.

It’s only been the national motto since the Red Scare.

Why do we still need a slogan that is patently untrue (not all Americans trust in God) when we have a perfectly serviceable one that pretty aptly describes us, E Pluribus Unum (One out of many)? Oh, because it’s political suicide to even consider that.

I agree with DavidB.

Or, perhaps you could ask to put up a plaque that says “In Buddha/Allah/Vishnu We Trust”.

—It’s only been the national motto since the Red Scare.—

Thing is, Congress can make the motto anything darn thing it pleases, anytime it wants. It can have the image of a wrinkled anus imprinted on all legal currency.

I agree it’s indecent and meanspirited. I wish they’d be decent. But… it’s their show.

What an oddly passive point of view Apos.

Neither David B nor the OP is suggesting a wholescale repudiation of American institutions, or violent behavior of any kind. Precisely because Congress is empowered to do a lot of stuff, ordinary citizens can and should use the channels available to them to protest what they think is wrong.

The mere fact that such mottos are trends, reflecting particular historical circumstances, need not mean that offended parties must sit back and just deal with what’s handed to them. On the contrary, their response is part of the next historical trend in formation. Things not only can change; they almost always do–sooner or later. (Though not always as we would wish them to, to be sure.)

For you “What can you do?” is a rhetorical question and indecent acts of this sort are to be wistfully regretted and forgotten. That’s your choice. Sure, you’re an ultra-reasonable person, and an eloquent and articulate one to boot. But “What can you do?” can also be a call to act. And there is no necessary contradicton between reasonableness and action.

There are also limits to what Congress can do; there are even limits to the things Congress can do when the majority of voters want Congress to do them. Congress can’t make the Southern Baptist Convention or the Roman Catholic Church or the Episcopal Church the official Church of the United States. In fact, Congress can’t do things pertaining to religion which would fall well short of establishing an official Church of the United States. Whether or not proclaiming on behalf of all Americans that we trust in God crossed that line is a matter of debate. Personally, I think the federal government crossed the line and has been meddling in things over which it has no legitimate jurisdiction from the time when “In God We Trust” was first put on coins, and just about every action taken with respect to the motto since then–from Congress proclaiming it to be our “national motto” back in the '50’s to the current push to grave it on the walls of the public schools for everyone’s little children to see and be instructed by–has just gotten further and further over the line.

Trying to think back about the Judge in California who passed a ruling that the motto “In God We Trust” could not be displayed in schools or something similar to that. He withdrew his ruling due to an outcry of people all over the country.

Perhaps you remember this better than I.

Actually, I object to that one too, but on less severe grounds. I’ve always thought that “out of many, one” sounded too much like statist socialism :wink: And it is pretty inconsistent with the idea of a union of soveriegn states, sounds too much in favor of centralized govt for my tastes.

But it’s better than any slogan that has “god” in it, that’s for sure.

I’m a pretty religious guy. Churchgoer and all that. I think God’s a good thing, and I make him (her, it, take your pick) part of my child’s life. I make no bones about it personally, professionally or otherwise. But I don’t have any interest in imposing my beliefs on others. I don’t evangelize, criticize, etc.

Giving that as the background, even I think “In God We Trust” in schools is uneccessary. While I don’t think it’s harmful, terrible or some horrible affront to religious freedom. And while my viewpoint is sorta that almost all religions have some concept of “God” generically and the atheists can just deal… I simply don’t see the need for it and why go offeding the ACLU’ers of the world for no good reason. I’m perfectly capable of bringing my religious beliefs to my home and my family without some relatively meaningless sign hanging in the schoolroom.

Personally, I think Ex Pluribus Unum is a fine national motto, inoffensive to anyone but the determined-to-be-offended-no-matter-what crowd, and I’d love to see it used more.

PS - It is properly, by the way, Ex Pluribus Unum or E. Pluribus Unum (the E is an abbreviation). E Pluribus Unum (no period) is incorrect.

" . . . all religions have some concept of “God” generically and the atheists can just deal . . ."

Yeah, we’re used to this. Doesn’t mean we have to like it (though if we don’t feel like “dealing,” we’re called “intolerant”).

Eve -

Sorry you don’t like my opinion – I mean that for real, not sarcastically.

I would add that my view is nearly (if not) everyone in this society has to “just deal” with various things they don’t like one way or another. I’m honestly not trying to single out atheists for that as somehow “less legitimate” but more saying the “just deal” involved here is of a scale that I can’t find that much cause for getting extreme about.

In my life, I have to “just deal” with a constant barrage of humor, derogatory remarks and even some real discrimination because I am fat… Comics get lambasted for making fun of minorities, etc. (Jackie Mason… Ted Danson), but fat folks are still a socially acceptable and “safe” target. I don’t like it, I don’t agree with it, but I’m also not a fat activist out there militating for legislation to have extra-wide seats put in airplanes or for reparations from McDonalds.

Not trying to hijack to a fat debate, but I give it as an example because I do think “just deal” is an operative response in the current debate about God signs in school…

Ah, but if a school mandated putting “You Can Never Be Too Rich Or Too Thin” plaques up in classrooms, wouldn’t you raise a polite objection?

Certainly I would! I would not however start a court case over it or go to the ACLU. And I’d expect to be told some variant of “deal with it, there are bigger problems to worry about” when I did raise the objection.

Now those Anorexics would probably go to the Supreme Court with it… I can’t speak for them, they crazy!

Love that this was posted on Darwin Day.

Over the past year the signs and bumper stickers that have sprung up saying “In God we trust” and “One nation under God” certainly strike me as more aggressive/intolerant/divisive than alternatives such as “United we stand.”

The quip about atheists “dealing” aside, I think DrLizardo comments were encouraging: I would call him a model religious person for a pluralistic liberal society such as ours. (NOTE: “liberal” here is being used in the political theory sense of a society that sees itself as promoting individual freedom and social democracy.) That is, I appreciate Dr.L’s understanding that the private sphere is the proper place for his religious devotion and that imposing religious dogmas in public schools inflames people without necessarily doing anything important for religion.

I’d like to go a step further and say why I really disagree with “In God We Trust” both personally and philosophically. It’s not that I faint at the mere mention of God. Lots of people I deal with on a day-to-day basis are religious and I seldom have a problem with the way that God may figure for them in their assumptions or their speeches. I’m even occasionally said something like, “Thank God,” in a casual kind of way even though I hold no belief in an anthropomorphized divine being–which is usually what is meant by God in a monotheistic religious culture.

Although I am probably best described as an atheist, I actually consider myself a fairly spiritual person. And most of that spirituality I’ve cultivated from years of experiencing life in what I like to think is an open-minded way: for me the most contemplative experiences tend to come via human inventions such as philosophy, music, and even good movies, as well as the kind of conversations I can have with other people about these things. I guess that makes me a humanist, and brings me in line with the secular humanist tradition which arose exactly around the time that people began to feel less sure about God, but, at the same time, more excited about the human potential for discovering things. But for other people I think the same contemplative feelings can come from nature, or from non-humanistic philosophies such as those one finds in non-Western traditions like Buddhism.

What is nice for me about this open-ended approach to spirituality is that it gives me a lot of opportunities to find things in common with other people, including people who value mainstream religious beliefs.

Therefore what pisses me off about the “In God We Trust” mentality is how close-minded and dogmatic it is. It’s an insult to human variety and human potential.

The truth is that even the very religious suffer crises of doubt and pain: why should such very human questioning be covered over with a slogan–and in a classroom no less?

And the truth is that people in America, including Kentucky, are brought up to trust in all kinds of things: we trust in antibiotics; we trust in the FDIC to protect our savings; depending on who we are we may trust in our mother or father as the one person who loves us no matter what; or we may trust in CNN; or we may trust that Neil Young is the best guitarist that ever was; or we may trust that the weather report won’t let us down as we get dressed in the morning.

The interesting thing when you’re in a classroom–(I speak as someone who spends a lot of time teaching)–is figuring out how and why it is that people come to believe in such things; and how (or if) people can learn to believe in and trust each other. When you begin to think about it, trust is one of the most complex human attitudes anyone can possibly think of.

“In God We Trust” doesn’t ask us to think, to ponder, to learn, to question, or even to accept. It just asks us to go on auto-pilot for the convenience of people who are insecure about their own beliefs and need to bolster their own tottering faith by imposing dogmas on other people.

Because the idea of institutionalizing “In God We Trust” in classrooms turns me off so much, it actually prompts me to feel very un-teacher-like: crabby, uppity, and moralizing rather than open-minded and ready to think. It is unlikely that anyone will ever think of mounting such a plaque in any classroom I teach in–thank God! :wink: --but I can’t help but feel really badly for the OP’s teacher.

On a related note…

I am getting married in a couple of months and, since neither my fiancee nor I are particularly religious, we’ve decided to have a Justice of the Peace officate at the ceremony. We met with the JoP the other day and told her that we didn’t want any mention of God in the ceremony (e.g., “before God and these witnesses”].

Well, I was quite surprised when she told us that by law she is prohibited from mentioning “God” as whe performs her duties and could lose her job if she did. Apparently (according to her at least), she is acting on behalf of the government and due to the Constitutionally mandated separation of Church and State (not to be confused with State and Main, but I digress] the ceremony MUST be completely secular and no mention of God is allowed.

Now, I have no idea whether this was simply her interpretation of things or whether this is true. If it is true, however, both my fiancee and I were wondering why our currency has “In God We Trust” printed right on it.

Regards,

Barry