***Update*** (Aug. 21): Chaz Stevens, an atheist activist known for his often clever stunts, plans to donate the following poster to various public schools. It appears to fit all the legal requirements for the poster… but since there’s nothing in the law requiring “In God We Trust” to be written in English, Stevens is opting for Arabic. Just to make the conservative Christian lawmakers squirm.
Stevens is accepting donations for this particular plan here.
A law, passed last year by the Texas legislature, requires all public schools to display “In God We Trust” posters that are donated by outside groups. It’s the latest effort by conservatives in power to shove God in students’ faces instead of passing bills that would actually help them.
S.B. 797 passed over a year ago but didn’t get much attention last year as families dealt with a return to in-person schooling. The law previously said the motto “may” be placed in a public school; the new law says schools “must” display a durable poster or framed copy of the motto “in a conspicuous place”… as long as it’s donated or purchased by outside groups. In other words, no taxpayer money will be used to do this… other than the time wasted by district officials, which (let’s be honest) Texas Republicans just don’t care about.
There are restrictions, too: The posters must have the words “In God We Trust” on top, the U.S. flag underneath them and centered, and a Texas flag somewhere else on the poster. Basically, something like this:
The law also includes what I’d call a No Shenanigans clause. It says no other words or images are allowed on the posters, so there’s no opportunity to do what some Kentucky schools did in 2019, putting up a framed copy of a dollar bill… or a picture of a penny. (Both say “In God We Trust.”)
None of that is permitted in Texas under the new law.
Nor will any outside group be allowed to send over posters with a synonym for “God”… or with the word “No” cleverly inserted before “God”… or with additional provocative imagery.
I suppose someone could make a version of the poster above with “God” hidden behind a blue gradient that doesn’t completely obscure the word. Such an image would probably raise plenty of money online in order to mass produce framed versions of it. And schools would be obligated to put it up because the law requires them to do so. But what do I know.
As expected, right-wing groups are jumping at the opportunity to send out posters:
Patriot Mobile, a Texas-based cellphone company that donates a portion of its customers’ phone bills to conservative, “Christian” causes, on Monday donated several “In God We Trust” signs to all Carroll Independent School District campuses, claiming it is their “mission is to passionately defend our God-given, Constitutional rights and freedoms, and to glorify God always.”
“Patriot Mobile has donated framed posters to many other school districts in the Dallas-Fort Worth area and we will continue to do so until all the schools in the area receive them,” the company said in a Facebook post. “We are honored to be part of bringing God back into our public schools!”
They’re giving away the game right there. This is about “bringing God” to schools. It’s not about patriotism, or the motto, or love of country. This Texas law is about shoving Christianity into public schools because the religion is too weak to win recruits on its own merits. If these people need a law to remind students to believe in the Christian God, it just shows how the Christian God and His followers have nothing of value to offer people.
State Sen. Bryan Hughes, the anti-abortion zealot who co-sponsored this bill, admitted the same thing, saying this legislation and the national motto were all about “assert[ing] our collective trust in a sovereign God.”
He’s lying about the “collective trust” bit. About 18% of Texans have no religious affiliation. The number is even higher nationally. And plenty of religious believers don’t believe in his God.
Whatever the case, I’m sure students in Uvalde and El Paso and Sutherland Springs and Santa Fe appreciate the gesture. Texas Republicans won’t do a damn thing about guns, but they’ll go out of their way to make sure every school has posters with the word “GOD” on them.
There is one way to legally fight back, though. Any school could put another poster next to the donated religious ones, saying non-Christians and non-religious students are welcome there, too.
Or maybe they could just frame the Establishment Clause.
I’d toss in some money for those.