SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — Legislation requiring South Dakota schools to display the “In God We Trust” motto will get assistance from the Congressional Prayer Caucus Foundation, a group that has been working to pass such laws in all 50 states.
South Dakota’s law took effect last month and requires all public schools in the state’s 149 districts to paint, stencil or otherwise prominently display the national motto.
Supporters said the requirement was meant to inspire patriotism in the state’s public schools. Displays must be at least 12-by-12 inches and be approved by the school’s principal, according to the law.
Critics say the law confuses patriotism with piety.
Republican Sen. Phil Jensen said the Congressional Prayer Caucus Foundation has been working on similar laws nationwide and invited the nonprofit religious organization to help with the legislation in South Dakota.
The group, whose members include lawmakers in Congress and statehouses across the county, also would help defend the state if the law is challenged, Jensen said.
“In God We Trust” model bills are part of the Congressional Prayer Caucus Foundation’s “Project Blitz” legislative playbook that includes model bills on topics such as requiring schools to teach about the Old and New Testament, favoring sex between married men and women, and talking points against laws that add “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to civil rights laws.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation, based in Madison, Wisconsin, which has legally challenged the motto’s inclusion on U.S. currency, opposed South Dakota’s bill.
Annie Laurie Gaylor, co-president, is wary of the group’s intention with the “In God We Trust” bill.
”They want to pass this and then proceed to more onerous things,” Gaylor said. “They’re going with the symbols first because it’s harder to sue over a national motto.”
”In God We Trust” was adopted when President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed legislation in 1956. According to the U.S. Department of Treasury website. it first appeared on paper money the following year.