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In keeping with a new state law, the national motto "In God we trust" has been painted on prominent spots in all 23 of Rapid City's public school buildings.

The law, which Gov. Kristi Noem signed in March and takes effect in the 2019-2020 school year, requires the motto to be displayed in an easily readable form in prominent locations on public school grounds, such as entryways, cafeterias or common areas. Lawmakers who support the statute said it will inspire patriotism.

Displays must be 12-by-12 inches in size and can take the form of plaques, student art projects and other kinds of artwork approved by a school's principal, according to the law's text. The motto has been transferred onto walls in each of the Rapid City Area Schools using a stencil, spokesperson Katy Urban said Tuesday.

In the event that a school, school district or school board becomes the target of a lawsuit incurred by the displays, the law directs the state's attorney general to represent them at no cost. It also directs the state of South Dakota to cover all court costs for which those entities would otherwise be responsible.

It does not, however, provide funding for schools to procure and mount the displays.

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Urban said Tuesday that the school district chose to use a stencil for its displays because it is a less expensive option. Stenciling the motto cost $2,800 altogether, she said.

In May, a group of students from Stevens High School who spoke to the school board suggested the district display an alternate version of the motto they designed that include the names of Buddha, Yahweh and Allah —as well as terms likes science and the spirits. A student from group, which is called Working to Initiate Societal Equality, or WISE, told board members that the standard motto appears to favor Christianity over other religions.

"To my knowledge there's been no discussion among the board about any alternative," Urban said Tuesday.

"In God We Trust" was adopted as the United States motto in 1956 with the passage of a U.S. Congressional bill that President Dwight D. Eisenhower later signed into law, according to a U.S. Department of Treasury webpage. It first appeared on paper money the following year.

The phrase first appeared on coins in 1864. Efforts to inscribe U.S. currency with the phrase began in earnest several years earlier, according to the webpage, stoked by an outpouring of religious sentiment the occurred during the Civil War.

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— Contact Matt Guerry at matthew.guerry@rapidcityjournal.com

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