A new law requires public schools in South Dakota to write ‘In God We Trust’ in large type and display the message in ‘prominent’ locations

US currency still has

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US currency still has “In God we trust” printed on it.
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Francis Dean/Corbis via Getty Images

  • In South Dakota, government officials have passed a bill to bring the saying back to prominence in public schools, The Washington Post reported.
  • Called the “In God We Trust” bill, the law states that any public school in South Dakota must display the phrase in at least 12 inches by 12 inches font and “in a prominent location.”
  • Senator Phil Jensen who sponsored the bill said he sees this law as a “historical reaffirmation of the principles our country was founded on.” Critics say it violates the First Amendment.
  • This year alone, 10 other US states have introduced or passed similar laws at their public schools.
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“In God We Trust” has long been printed on US currency, but many believe the adage is now outdated and doesn’t reflect the values of all Americans.

In South Dakota, however, government officials have passed a bill to bring the saying back to prominence in public schools, The Washington Post reported. Called the “In God We Trust” bill, the law states that any public school in South Dakota must display the phrase in at least 12 inches by 12 inches font and “in a prominent location.”

“Let’s keep hope alive,” said Phil Jensen, the South Dakota senator who sponsored the bill. “This is our legislature, our history, a nation that trusts God.”

Senator Jensen also said he sees this law as a “historical reaffirmation of the principles our country was founded on.”

But critics of the legislation say it crosses a line and violates the part of the First Amendment that promises freedom from a specific religion.

“Our position is that it’s a terrible violation of freedom of conscience to inflict a godly message on a captive audience of schoolchildren,” Freedom From Religion Foundation co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor told the Associated Press.

Students who attend these schools have also opposed the law. At a recent school board meeting in Rapid City, South Dakota, for example, some students suggested a different, more inclusive motto that includes other religious deities. Another suggestion was to replace the word “God” with “science” or “ourselves” to make the saying more secular.

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“We are a cultural melting pot, and it is really important that we make all people who come to America to feel welcome,” student Abigail Ryan told TV station KEVN.

In Rapid City, 23 public schools have already painted “In God We Trust” on their walls, which cost a total of $2,800, according to the Rapid City Journal. The law itself doesn’t provide funding for the mandated messaging to be built.

Other states have passed the same law already

South Dakota isn’t the first state to pass a law like this. In fact, 10 other states have either passed the same bill or put it into effect this year alone.

Kentucky is in the process of having these mandated signs go up in its public schools this summer.