In God We Trust Posters Violate First Amendment


Recently, you may have seen an onslaught of plastic, framed posters being put up in nearly every classroom in the school. You know, the ones that have “In God We Trust” sprawled across them, leaving little room at the bottom for the flag of the United States and for Arkansas’ state flag. You are not alone.

In 2017, during the 91st assembly of the Arkansas Legislature, the congregation passed an act requiring all teachers in the state to place the sign somewhere in their classrooms. However, due to lack of money from outside donations from which the act gets its funding, the posters were not mandated in Little Rock School District schools until the summer of 2021, when they began trickling into the district. Over 22,000 of these posters have been distributed across the state thus far, and more are to follow. 

Before I go further, let the record reflect a few things. I am a devout Christian. I have been attending 2nd Presbyterian Church of Little Rock for all 17 years I’ve been on this earth. I pray every night before I go to bed.

 This poster law is no act of Christianity. The passing of this act is a blatant attempt for politicians to insert their personal beliefs into public centers of education for no other purpose than to spread their religious faith.

My biggest quarrel with this poster comes from the fact that it is a clear violation of this country’s constitution, more specifically the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights which states that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” Public schools are public domain, domain that is not to be in any way established or altered with religious intent in mind. And although it doesn’t explicitly act to prevent any students from expressing and practicing their respective religions, requiring this poster to be put up in literally every classroom in schools certainly doesn’t encourage them. It’s acceptable for teachers to have items and other mediums expressing their personal religious association and beliefs in their classrooms as long as it doesn’t become obstructive to the learning of the students in any way. But ordering them to decorate their rooms with religious propaganda that may go against their beliefs and those of their students doesn’t sit well with me, and it shouldn’t sit well with you either.

I already know what some are thinking. Isn’t “In God We Trust” the U.S.’s national motto? It is indeed: it is printed on every note of our currency, plastered everywhere you look in our nation’s capital, and can be found on colonial statues and license plates alike. However, while the claim that the phrase has adopted a more patriotic meaning can be somewhat upheld in alternate circumstances, it cannot be supported when it is made apparently obvious that these modern legislators were not thinking secularly when passing this law.

The group who donated the posters to so many Little Rock schools, the Pulaski County Republican Women, is a political organization that is very vocal in its support of Christian ideals as illustrated by their posts on social media and their website. Subsequently, many of its leaders are also involved in organizations with main goals of spreading the Christian religion. This intent is made clear by the poster’s layout. The two flags, which could better inspire patriotism in student viewers, thus fulfilling the legislators’ supposed purpose, are relegated to only the very bottom of the poster’s design. Although the flags are still visible, it doesn’t take a genius to see that they and the patriotism that they were meant to represent were not intended to be the main focus of the poster. Patriotic purpose or not, this poster contains more than a nod to a specific established religion, which should not go without scrutiny. 

I understand that whether these placards go up or not is of no concern to the majority. To most students and staff, they will be just one of many posters hanging all over this school: Nothing but quick eye candy to glance at and then gloss over. But if this Bill is met with no resistance, this subtle infraction will be ignored by the very figures tasked with keeping the American government in check: the people. If we fuss about this now, it will signal to lawmakers that future legislation like this act, legislation that violates the true principles that America is built upon, cannot and will not be passed without a fight.