Legislature poised to mandate “In God We Trust” signs in all TN schools

A bill mandating “prominent” display of the words “in God we trust” in all Tennessee schools was approved unanimously without debate in the state Senate and got only one recorded ‘no’ vote in clearing House committees as it heads to a floor vote.

Officially entitled the “National Motto in the Classroom Act,” SB2661 was not discussed in the Senate Judiciary Committee beyond a brief description by the sponsor, Sen. Paul Bailey (R-Sparta) before winning unanimous approval. The full Senate also approved unanimously on Monday without debate with the measure included in a “consent calendar” of non-controversial legislation.

In the House Education Administration and Planning Committee, Rep. Johnnie Turner (D-Memphis) declared that she believes in God, but “that being said, I’m also sensitive to other religions” and those with conflicting beliefs “should not be forced to face in God we trust” in schools.

Rep. Susan Lynn (R-Old Hickory) replied that the “wonderful national motto” is already in widespread use on coins, state-issued license plates and elsewhere and “people of other faiths, they all believe in God.”

Reps. Ron Lollar (R-Bartlett) and Terri Lynn Weaver (R-Lancaster) made speeches supporting the bill. Lollar said displays of the motto would help teach children “what our principles are” and Weaver praised Lynn’s suggestion that the display requirement could be met by having students do artwork incorporating the phrase.

House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh (D-Ripley) said “I don’t have a problem” with the bill. Though it puts a “small burden” on schools, he said, “I think we need more indoctrination into what our country is really all about.” Still, he said, “it’s a sign about making ourselves feel better” and the message to store sign saying “we sell the best ice cream in town.”

The House committee approved the bill on voice vote with Turner asking to be recorded as voting no, according to the legislative website.

The bill declares that the mandate will take effect for the 2018-19 school year with the display in a “”prominent location.” That phrase is defined as “a school entry way, cafeteria, or common area where students are likely to see the national motto display.”

Note: Lynn said 17 other states have passed similar laws.  In some, the measure is apparently producing more attention and debate. See, for example, CNN’s report on the Florida bill and the Kansas City Star on the measure before the Oklahoma legislature. There’s also an ongoing discussion in the Wyoming legislature, according to the AP.

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