INDIANAPOLIS— For the second year in a row, State Sen. Dennis Kruse is seeking to enact a law requiring the national motto “In God We Trust” to be plastered in large letters of Indiana public schools.
Kruse, R-Auburn, told the Senate Education and Career Development Committee Wednesday that it’s important to remind students of the national motto.
The bill, Senate Bill 131, would require schools to post a durable or framed illustration of the state motto, along with pictures of the state and national flags, that is at least 11 inches by 17 inches. No vote was taken on the measure Wednesday.
While supporters of the bill assert it would spread patriotism, opponents argued that the measure violates the constitutional separation of church and state.
Maggie Wynans, a member of American Atheists and Northern Indiana Atheists, told the committee that her two children, ages 10 and 13, have already been bullied for their non-belief in religion, which she said they came to on their own. Mandating the posters would exclude her children, as well as the 26% of Americans who do not believe in a God, said Wynans, whose husband serves in the Air Force.
“Our voices need to be heard,” she said. “There are a lot more of us than people think there are.”
Kruse emphasized that the motto – which replaced E Pluribus Unum in 1956 — is already printed on currency. Micah Clark, director of the American Family Association of Indiana, told lawmakers that 2 million Hoosiers have chosen the state’s optional “In God We Trust” license plate.
However, representatives from several education organizations stood against the bill. Christopher Lagoni, director of Indiana Small and Rural Schools Association; Sally Sloan, executive director of American Federation of Teachers Indiana; and Lisa Tanselle, general counsel for Indiana School Boards Association, argued that it was not necessary to spend money on the posters since schools already are required to discuss and teach respect of the national motto.
“We would suggest this is money we would prefer to be spent instructing students,” Tanselle said.
Kruse sought to make the motto required in schools during the 2019 legislative session, but it was stripped from a bill, later signed into law, that allowed religious studies to be taught in public schools as an elective.