To some people, they're just four words. To leaders like South Dakota's Phil Jensen, they're a lifeline for today's kids. In a world as violent and polarized as ours, if there was ever a time to put a simple reminder like "In God We Trust" before students, some states think, it's now.
Starting this fall, schools in the Mount Rushmore State will have a lot more on their walls than the alphabet. Thanks to South Dakota legislators, all 149 districts will be required to "paint, stencil, or otherwise prominently display the national motto." Monday, on "Washington Watch," the primary sponsor of that bill explained what was behind the movement taking so many states by storm.
"In this day and age, we certainly have issues in our society," he told listeners. "And I think just refocusing on what it really means to be an American and implementing our national motto into our public school system is imperative." That's not just a good idea -- in the last several years, it's been a popular one. After the horrible tragedy in Parkland, state legislators from Florida to Arkansas started beating the drum for positive messages like this one. "God is not a Republican or a Democrat," said Florida Rep. Kimberly Daniels at the time. "He is not black or white. He is the light and our schools need light in them like never before."
Of course, just because the bills are popular doesn't mean they haven't faced opposition. Senator Jensen told me that the usual suspects raised a ruckus about his idea. In particular, the Freedom from Religion Foundation argued that South Dakota was "insultingly confusing patriotism with piety." But the secular activists don't plan on challenging the law, since -- as everyone from the Supreme Court on down knows -- they don't have a legal leg to stand on. Still, they told reporters that it's a violation of conscience to "inflict" a "godly message on a captive audience of school children."
How could the national motto be a violation of our conscience? "Well, that's a real good question," Phil said, "because it's on our coins. It's on all of our money. And the courts have consistently ruled that it's not an establishment of religion. It's patriotic in nature and it strengthens the foundation of our freedoms."
Surely, in the situations facing our nation today, we could all use a reminder that God is our trust. Our hats go off to legislators like Phil, who understand that the most important thing we could do for our country -- and our children -- is to bring the conversation back to what matters.