On Wednesday, the Florida House adopted a bill, HB 839, that would require the words “In God We Trust” to be displayed in a conspicuous place in every public school.

Proponents of the bill claim they want to require public schools to post this phrase simply because it is the national motto. But their own words betray these claims and divulge their real purpose – to encourage students to believe in God.

When the bill sponsor, Rep. Kim Daniels (D-Jacksonville), spoke about it on the House floor on Wednesday, she explained “that God is positive” and he “is the light. And our schools need light in them like never before.” She went on to say that “as a believer, we do not have to get in our closets to worship God” and “we cannot put God in a closet when the problems we have are bigger than us." Instead, we should place this phrase in the schools so “our children can see something positive.”

The day before, she said she hoped the bill would lead “this generation [to] have a revelation of the foundation of this country.” She then invoked Psalm 11:3, “when the foundation is destroyed, what shall we do.” It’s clear that her real intent is to have public schools promote belief in God.

In January, Rep. Larry Lee (D-Ft. Pierce) explained that he supports the bill because “the nation was ‘built on God’ and the bill is a great idea at a time when many young people aren't going to church.”

Of course, the government cannot require public schools to display a religious phrase when the legislators’ clear intent is to encourage students to believe in God.

In addition, families and students in Florida practice a variety of religions and faiths – and it’s important that our public schools respect everyone. Parents and families in Florida should get to decide how their kids learn about faith – that’s not the role of public schools. No children should ever be made to feel like second-class citizens at school because of their or their families’ faith or beliefs. Instead, all students should feel welcome, whether they believe in God or not.

What is perhaps most troubling about the push for this bill in Florida is that some have framed it as a response to the Parkland school shooting. On the same day students from across the state were at the capitol begging their state legislators to adopt real solutions to address school shootings, Rep. Daniels was suggesting that displaying “In God We Trust” posters is the only solution they need. She said, “It is not a secret that we have some gun issues that need to be addressed, but the real thing that needs to be addressed are issues of the heart."

Clearly, these bills are a waste of taxpayer dollars and time – no one needs a constant reminder of one of our national mottos. But worse, these bills are intended to encourage kids to believe in God, which our public schools are not allowed to do.

Florida, however, isn’t the only state pushing an “In God We Trust” bill. Just this week, the Wyoming House passed House Bill 133, which requires the posting of “In God We Trust” “in the state capitol building, the library and each classroom of each public elementary and secondary school of the state, the lobby of each public building or facility owned by the state and within the leased space of any building or facility leased by the state.”

On Monday, the Oklahoma Senate Committee on General Government passed Senate Bill 1016, which would require school superintendents and officials of state agencies to place a poster of “In God We Trust” in school classrooms and public buildings that are maintained or operated using state funds.

And, on Wednesday, the Arizona Senate passed a bill that would allow public school teachers to post “God Enriches” on the walls of their classrooms. 

Clearly, these bills are a waste of taxpayer dollars and time – no one needs a constant reminder of one of our national mottos. But worse, these bills are intended to encourage kids to believe in God, which our public schools are not allowed to do.

On Wednesday, Florida state Rep. Carlos Smith (D-Winter Park) tweeted, “Let’s keep a clear separation between church + state. Forcing our public schools to post ‘In God We Trust’ in a conspicuous place is inappropriate.” He explained that he voted no on the bill because he votes “based on core values.”

We couldn’t agree more. Legislators across the country should do the same.