On Tuesday January 22nd Representative Kim Daniels (D) filed a bill in the Florida House of Representative that would require that all Florida public school conspicuously the phrase In God We Trust in classrooms and in all buildings. This is almost the exact same bill that passed last year in Arkansas.
Daniels was kind enough to provide some video on her Facebook page, so we thought we would offer our sentiments on it.
Before we get to into this video, I want to point out that the cost will be picked up by the individual districts. The Florida school system, as with nearly all American schools, are struggling to keep supplies for kids and teachers. This bill as written would put an additional burden on these districts. With hundreds of classrooms, the cost could reach into the tens of thousands of dollars for even small districts. That is a cost they really can’t afford.
I want to point out that this phrase is only allowed on government property if it is used as ceremonial deism. It is obvious that these law makers do not see or use it in this way. In this context it does not pass the Lemon Test and is unconstitutional.
The video opens with Daniels introducing the bill with some mostly accurate information about In God We Trust. I say mostly because of the following statement
“(it) should be displayed so that our children will be exposed and educated on this great motto which is part of this country’s foundation”
First off, it is historically incorrect. The first official usage of the phrase In God We Trust was in 1864 when it was added to coinage. According to the U.S. Treasury Department, it was
because of the increased religious sentiment existing during the Civil War.
In God We Trust was not used in any official documents or statements prior to that year and it certainly was not “part of this country’s foundation” as Representative Daniels stated.
After Daniels a Representative from Common Ground took the podium. They oppose the bill saying it was redundant since current law requires the display of the state flag which already has the phrase In God We Trust on it.
Then the floor was opened up for debate.
Rep. Ralph Massullo (R) said
” I think it is important for our students to realize the civic history of our state. And one portion of that is that we do trust in god”
Is Masullo making a religious statement that all the citizens of Florida trust in a god? If he is, then this is certainly a promotion of religion and incorrect. Numbers are hard to pin down, anywhere between five and ten percent of Floridians are Atheists or Agnostic. Up to twenty-five percent claim to have no religion at all.
Next to speak was Rep. Mel Ponder (R).
“From one generation to the next, we’ll forget the testimony, or forget the heritage, or forget the DNA of what the prior generation brought to the table… How great of us to put honor where honor is due and celebrate a bedrock of our nation of In God WE Trust so that when the kids, if they ask, if it’s in their school system, we have a testimony to share of what it means to us.”
There certainly seems to be a lot of “Testimony” in his reasoning for approving this bill. And honor where honor is due? I’m pretty sure he is not talking about the framers of the Constitution. It is pretty obvious he is talking about his god, not some deistic deity that is needed to keep this phrase constitutional.
And the final speaker, my personal favorite, was Rep Larry Lee (D)
“When we look at what’s happening with a lot of our young people today. We’re taking god out of everything. This country was built on god and when you look around right now, just go into your community and see how many young people are even attending church anymore, many of the don’t even value or respect life. So I think this is a great move by you.”
He is making it very clear the this is a religious statement and the intent is to bring youth back to the churches. If this is not a form of proselytizing, I don’t know what could be. It is evident that he equates going to church with values. I have to wonder what his non-religious constituents think about that.
It is very clear that none of the legislators feel that this phrase is what the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals labeled as simply ceremonial deism and that it has lost all religious meaning. They want this to be a religious phrase and they are not hiding it.
This bill has zero secular purpose and unnecessarily entangles the government with a promotion of religion. It fails the Lemon test on the first clause and should never have been the motto of the United States.
Link to official video from state. It starts at 37:25