Some Louisiana schools will receive posters with the motto “In God We Trust” written in Arabic to be placed in classrooms to comply with a new bill the Louisiana Legislature passed on Tuesday. (Image courtesy of Chaz Stevens)
Some schools across Louisiana will soon receive free “In God We Trust” signs to hang in their classrooms, though the designs might not be what some state lawmakers had in mind when they passed the new mandate Tuesday.
House Bill 8, co-sponsored by Republican Reps. Dodie Horton of Haughton and Jack McFarland of Jonesboro, received unanimous final approval Tuesday in the Louisiana Legislature. It would require all charter and public K-12 schools and colleges in Louisiana to display “In God We Trust” in every classroom.
As the bill awaits the governor’s signature, activist Chaz Stevens has already begun donating his own unique designs of the motto to schools across the state. Some are written in Arabic, Hebrew, Spanish and other languages, while others have rainbow-colored backgrounds in support of LGBTQ+ students. Some even bear pentagram images for those who worship a Satanic god.
Stevens, a tech entrepreneur from Deerfield Beach, Florida, said in an interview that he wants to find out if Louisiana’s legislators and school officials actually respect the First Amendment for all religions and cultures or just their own.
The Horton-McFarland legislation was among the first handful of bills prefiled back in January ahead of the 2023 legislative session. It started out as a fairly simple expansion of a current law that already requires the motto be displayed in every building on a school’s campus, but lawmakers spent significant time debating and amending the proposal over the last two months to ensure it accomplishes the goal of getting “God” into public school classrooms — an idea that many liberals believe is at odds with the nation’s separation of church and state doctrine.
In its original version, the proposal would have allowed each school district wide latitude in choosing a design for the posters with the minimum requirement of a paper sign. Lawmakers then struck that language and added provisions requiring the motto to be displayed on a poster or framed document that is at least 11 by 14 inches and “be printed in a large, easily readable font.”
The final version of the bill does not specify the color or language of font the motto may be written in or what designs or colors can be included in the background so long as the motto is the “central focus” of the sign.
Louisiana is home to many foreign language immersion schools for which Stevens has created posters. In immersion programs, students receive all instruction in a foreign language. Most of the programs are in Spanish or French, though the International School of Louisiana, a charter school in New Orleans, offers Mandarin Chinese immersion.
Reached via text message on Wednesday, McFarland, the bill’s co-author, said immersion schools can use the foreign language signs if they choose. He didn’t say whether other schools would be required to use signs written in English.
School boards won’t be required to spend money on the posters. The bill specifically allows them to accept donated signs.
Stevens, who took the same action when Texas passed a similar law last year, said he has already mailed out 50 to 100 posters to schools across the state. He is raising money to pay for the signs and donating proceeds to AIDS research.
“What we learned in Texas — and we’re applying that knowledge to our Louisiana project — is the first display across the finish line wins,” he said. “So, we’ve moved quickly to get a big initial batch of posters out the door and beat the evangelicals to the school wall.”
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