Public school officials in Alabama are looking to put God back into their schools through displays of the U.S. motto “In God We Trust” — but critics are speaking out against the move, calling it “a constant push for theocracy.”
State lawmakers in February approved legislation allowing such displays on public property. The motto soon could become more common in Alabama schools, Al.com reported, with legal challenges expected to follow.
Blount County’s school board is poised to become one of the first systems to take action, the news site reported. A policy on the issue could be drafted within the next month, Superintendent Rodney Green said.
Observers view Blount County as a testing ground for the upcoming legal battles with organizations that advocate for the separation of church and state.
“You would think that something that passes the Legislature won’t be challenged in the courtroom but we all know that it can and probably will,” said Green, who oversees a school system with more than 7,800 students spread out over 17 schools north of Jefferson County.
State Rep. David Standridge, R-Hayden, sponsored the original legislation that gives public bodies the right to display the “In God We Trust” motto. The Alabama law took effect July 1.
The Alabama legislation is not a mandate, and is a lighter version of what was approved by Tennessee lawmakers this spring that requires the motto’s prominent display inside all public schools.
“My hope is they have the Ten Commandments in the schools all over the state of Alabama as well as the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the historical documents that go with this country,” said Dean Young, chairman of the Ten Commandments political action committee. “That way, children will be able to see and ask, ‘What are these documents’ and a teacher can say, ‘Those are the Ten Commandments and they come from God and this is what they say.’”
The critics claim national politics are fueling efforts to incorporate the motto or Christian symbols in government buildings.
“It’s a tsunami of Christian national laws in our country right now,” said Annie Laurie Gaylord, co-president of the Madison, Wisconsin-based Freedom from Religion Foundation.
“The upcoming election will say a lot about the direction of our nation,” she added. “With the Republicans in charge of Congress and so many of these states, we are seeing a constant push for theocracy.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.