October 2019 Church & State Magazine | People & Events

Facing a new law requiring the posting of the phrase “In God We Trust” in public schools, officials at the Fayette County Public School system in Kentucky came up with an interesting solution: They framed and posted one-dollar bills.

The Kentucky law requires that the phrase, which is also the U.S. national motto, be posted in a “prominent” place but says nothing about the size of the display. Officials at the county’s school say they are meeting the law’s requirements.

“Like every school district in the commonwealth, Fayette County Pub­lic Schools has complied with the requirements of the new law to display the national motto in our schools,” Superintendent Manny Caulk told a Lexington TV station. “All schools in our district have been provided a framed version of an enlarged copy of a $1 dollar bill to display in a prominent location.”

But one Kentucky lawmaker was not amused. State Rep. Brandon Reed (R-Hodgenville), the legislator who sponsored the bill requiring that the motto be posted, accused the district of playing “political games.”

Americans United countered that it’s actually the lawmakers sponsoring these “In God We Trust” bills who are playing political games – through the Project Blitz campaign, they’re proposing supposedly innocuous bills like displaying the national motto and teaching Bible clas­ses in public schools as the vanguard of other harmful measures that would allow religious freedom to be used to justify discrimination in foster care, marriage and other aspects of life.

AU also noted that the Fayette County schools are in compliance with the law, so there should be no problem.

In LaRue County, officials at Ab­ra­­ham Lincoln Elementary School posted a picture of a large penny to meet the law’s requirements.

Laws requiring the posting of “In God We Trust” signs in public schools and other public buildings have surfaced recently in several states. As Americans United has pointed out, “In God We Trust” has been the national motto only since 1956. Previously, the Latin phrase E Pluribus Unum (“Out of Many, One”) served as the nation’s unofficial national motto.

Although “In God We Trust” be­gan appearing on some coins in the North during the Civil War, it was not used during the founding period after the Revolutionary War. The first coin officially minted by the U.S. government was the fugio cent of 1787. It contained two phrases: “Mind Your Business” and “We Are One.” There are no religious symbols on that coin.

“In God We Trust” appeared on coins sporadically after the Civil War but was not codified for use on all currency until 1956. The adoption of the motto was seen as a reaction to the Cold War and a slap at so-called “godless communism” in the Soviet Union.