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A new Louisiana law requiring all public schools to display “In God We Trust” in classrooms went into effect on Tuesday after it was signed last month by the state’s Democratic governor.
The law, officially known as HB8, requires a display of “In God We Trust,” the national motto of the U.S., in every classroom of every building in every public school district, from elementary schools through high schools.
Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards (D) signed the law in June.
The sign must be a poster or framed document that is at least 11 inches by 14 inches.
“The motto shall be the central focus of the poster or framed document and shall be printed in a large, easily readable font,” the law reads.
Schools can spend public money on the signs. People are also allowed to donate money to buy the displays for schools.
The ACLU of Louisiana complained about Louisiana’s new law, with a representative saying, “It’s our belief that parents, not school officials, should be responsible for shaping their children’s religious education.”
“Will it send a message that only students who believe in God are welcome in public spaces?” ACLU Louisiana advocacy strategist A’Niya Robinson asked.
The bill’s author, state Representative Dodie Horton (R), said the bill does not promote any particular religion.
“It doesn’t preach any particular religion at all, but it certainly does recognize a higher power,” Horton said.
“It’s a positive message in this world that throws so many negative things at our children,” she added.
In 2018, Louisiana passed a lighter version of the law, which required all public schools to have just one “In God We Trust” sign hung in public school buildings. Now, the signs will be more ubiquitous and likely more visible to students since they must hang in every classroom.
The 2018 law also required that students be taught that “In God We Trust” is the national motto and educated on the history of the phrase.
Louisiana is not the only state to implement a law recently requiring “In God We Trust” to be displayed in public facilities.
Florida, Arkansas, South Dakota, Tennessee, South Carolina, and Texas have also passed similar laws recently.
“In God We Trust” appears on every piece of U.S. currency as well, which has raised the hackles of anti-religion activists for years.
In 2016, atheist activists sued in federal court to remove “In God We Trust” from U.S. currency, claiming the national motto is “a tool used to perpetuate favoritism for (Christian) Monotheism” and perpetuates “anti-Atheistic bias.”
Another new Louisiana law went into effect on Tuesday that allows public schools to offer an elective high school class on the Bible.
“The course shall maintain religious neutrality and accommodate diverse religious views, traditions, and perspectives,” the law reads.
The course will familiarize students with the content, history, and structure of the Bible, as well as the book’s influence on law, history, government, literature, art, music, customs, morals, values, and culture, the law says.
“This bill confirms our students have the opportunity to study the most published book in history when it has been unclear they had that option in the past,” said the bill’s author, state Representative Valarie Hodges (R).