If you have been following us for a while you know that last year Arkansas passed a bill requiring that the national motto “In God We Trust” be displayed in public schools and on government-owned buildings by means of a poster. If you weren’t aware of this bill, here it is below.
The important parts say :
“1-4-133. Display of national motto.
(a)(1) If funds under subsection (b) of this section are available,
local school superintendents of the public schools in this state and the
administrative officials of state agencies shall place a durable poster or
framed copy representing:
(A) The national motto of the United States, “In God We
(B) An accurate representation of the United States flag,
which shall be centered under the national motto; and
(C) An accurate representation of the Arkansas state flag.
(2) The materials in subdivision (a)(1) of this section may be
displayed in each:
(A) Public elementary and secondary school library and
classroom in this state; and
(B) Public building or facility in this state that is
maintained or operated by state funds.
(b) The copies or posters authorized under this section shall either
be donated or shall be purchased solely with funds made available through
voluntary contributions to the local school boards or the Building Authority
Division of the Department of Finance and Administration.
Recently, we had a teacher in Arkansas state that he did not want to put up the poster he was provided. It looks like this:
So we did what we always do: we offered an alternative poster to this teacher, which looks like this:
The teacher was happy with our offer and accepted it. All seem to be good news.
A couple of hours later, Senator Jason Rapert, a huge proponent of ACT 911 and the head of the non-profit that provided the first poster, decided that our submission did not meet the criteria for the law and made it known on Twitter.
No sir – your attempt to misdirect this person is in error. The law is clear: https://t.co/mPl9W2d7om The state of Arkansas requires the National Motto to be displayed as directed in ACT 911 in every public school classroom in our state. @RepJimDotson @1stLiberty @libertycounsel
— Sen. Jason Rapert (@jasonrapert) March 29, 2018
We quickly informed him that our poster is designed to meet the law’s requirements. We also asked if he planned to prosecute any teacher that used a different poster.
Finally we informed him that the poster he had been donating did not comply with the law.
If you will notice in section (a)(1) B it states
An accurate representation of the United States flag,
which shall be centered under the national motto….
If you look at the Senator’s poster, the American flag is offset to the left and level with the state flag. That is not what the law states. It is very clear that the American flag, and specifically the American flag, shall be centered under the motto. It does not give a location for the state flag other than it must be on the poster.
But the question remains: is our poster legal when it contains more than the law states?
Well that lies in the language of laws and the language here is clear on what must be on the poster, but left it open for other items to be placed with it; there are no terms like “only” or “limited to” or “no other”.
The provisions in the law are the minimum requirements to be accepted under Act 911 for posting at schools and public buildings, which our poster meets.
But there is one other problem with this bill. It is actually contradictory in its requirement on where it will be placed.
In the first section it states “local school superintendents of the public schools in this state and the administrative officials of state agencies shall place a durable poster or framed copy representing:” but it doesn’t provide any guidance as to where to place them.
Then in the next section it states “The materials in subdivision (a)(1) of this section may be displayed in each:” then goes on to describe where they should go.
And this is where it gets interesting. In one section it says “shall” without definite location, which leaves it up to interpretation on the location. The schools could place it in the Janitor’s closet and still be in line with the law.
In the other section it says “may”, which in legal terms literally means “if you want to”. Then it gives locations that “you can put the poster, if you want.”
The original poster provided to the teacher by Senator Rapert does not comply with the bill. The Original Motto Project’s does. Additionally, the act, which is supposed to require posting of the motto, may not even accomplish that. To top it all off, when a poster that does follow the law is submitted, the Senator doesn’t want that one posted.
One has to wonder why he is so opposed to any poster but his?