Greenville lawmaker files bill to put 'In God We Trust' posters - FOX Carolina 21

Greenville lawmaker files bill to put 'In God We Trust' posters in every public school classroom

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National motto "In God We Trust." (Source: Associated Press) National motto "In God We Trust." (Source: Associated Press)

If a bill proposed by a Greenville lawmaker becomes law, the message "In God We Trust" will be in every South Carolina public school classroom.

In November, District 17 Rep. Mike Burns prefiled a bill to change SC law to require the national and state mottos to be displayed in schools.

The bill calls for the State Board of Education to develop a "standard durable poster" with the messages "In God We Trust" and "Dum Spiro Spero" on it. The legislation would require the posters to be placed in all public and charter elementary, middle and high school classrooms across the state.

However, the bill has struck a nerve for some local groups, including the American Humanist Association.

"This is just another way to insert religion into the school system," said Greenville Chapter Member Brandis Hartsell. "I don't know what the word is, it's just atrocious."

Hartsell called the bill a "blatant attempt to defy secular government'. She said there is a responsibility to teach unbiasedly.

On the other side, Rep. Burns argues the phrase is not seen as religious, at least not according to 1970 ruling in California.

"They held that "In God We Trust" was not in violation of separation of church and state," Burns said. "That's the highest ruling we've had on it so far and that's the law of the land."

The representative said there has been some backlash, emails hitting his inbox, but he said he will continue telling those opposing bill its "quite constitutional." He said the public school system sometimes neglects part of our history, and he believes having the nation's motto hung for all to see will help force change.

"It's been on our currency for about 100 years, and we wanted our kids to know that and our state motto 'Dum Spiro Spero' which is latin for 'While I breathe, I hope'," Burns said. "We wanted on our school property so they could see them when they are going through the school and ask questions and be taught that by our teachers."

Many organizations said they fought hard to keep the motto off of currency, and now they feel they are fighting the fight again. Hartsell said as a retired teacher, the bill is very concerning. She believes this is another attempt to mold religion with government activity.

"It's a clear violation, and that's the most important thing," Hartsell said. "We have to be able to always separate church from state to allow citizens to make their own choice in regard to religion, or lack of religion as the case may be."

The bill was referred to the House committee on Education and Public Works on Jan. 9.

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