WATAUGA COUNTY, N.C. — A school district in North Carolina has refused to accept donated posters that bear the motto ‘In God We Trust’ due to their concern that they would violate the separation of church and state.
The local chapter of the American Legion had offered the patriotic posters to the Watauga County School District for free, but were informed that the district opted to pass.
“We got an email from the school saying thank you, but on advice of their legal counsel they could not accept the posters because of separation of church and state,” Pastor Rick Cornejo told Christian blogger Todd Starnes.
The posters bear an image of the American flag, and include a line that states, “The national motto of the United States, adopted by Congress, July 30, 1956.”
Many districts in the state have displayed the motto without issue, but Cornejo said that he believes the presence of Appalachian State University is an influence on the belief systems of the area.
“The university is in Boone so we’re dealing with the liberals,” he told Starnes. “Our county is pretty conservative but the town of Boone is pretty liberal.”
The American concept of separation of church and state originates from Thomas Jefferson’s 1802 letter to the Danbury Baptist Association. However, some state that Jefferson was not speaking of eliminating God from the government, but rather preventing the government from interfering with the practices of the Church.
“Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man & his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, & not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should ‘make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,’ thus building a wall of separation between Church and State,” Jefferson wrote.
While the Watauga County School District has declined to display the posters, up north, a Christian representative in Pennsylvania has proposed a bill that would mandate schools throughout the Commonwealth to post the motto in some form.
Dubbed the National Motto Display Act, the legislation seeks to recognize the 150th anniversary of the phrase being displayed on American currency by then-Pennsylvania Governor James Pollock. A news release from Representative Rick Saccone’s office outlines that the bill seeks to “promote patriotism through the display of the national motto and to educate children about an important but overlooked part of Pennsylvania’s heritage.”
Saccone says that the majority of his constituents are in support of the proposal.
“It’s 500-to-1 back home,” he told the Associated Press. “People are for it.”
While Saccone noted that that there will likely be opposition from some groups that wish to keep God out of schools, he believes that schools have the right to recognize a part of history just as much as any other type of message.
“So they can have Harry Potter on the walls, zombies and witches on brooms, but not the national motto?” he asked the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “It would just be posted in the building somewhere so the kids know what the story is behind it. It’s about teaching history.”