As the new school year begins, a Louisiana legislation requiring classrooms in all public schools in the state to display the phrase “In God We Trust” has gone into effect.
House Bill 8, signed into law by Louisiana’s Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards in June, took effect Tuesday. The measure passed the Republican-controlled Louisiana Senate with no votes cast in opposition and the Republican-controlled Louisiana House of Representatives voted to concur with the Senate-passed version of the legislation with no members opposing the effort.
The text of the law requires “the program of instruction on patriotic customs” to “include instruction on the national motto, ‘In God We Trust’” and for every school district in the state to display the phrase “in each building it uses” and in all classrooms “in each school under its jurisdiction.” It specifies the requirements for such displays as consisting of “a poster or framed document that is at least 11 inches by 14 inches” with the motto as “the central focus of the poster or framed document” and “printed in a large, easily readable font.”
House Bill 8 amends existing Louisiana law which merely requires public school districts to display “In God We Trust” in at least one location at each school. The requirement previously only applied to displaying the motto at any one location in each public school, as opposed to all public classrooms, and dates back to the 2019-’20 school year.
The newly effective law clarifies that public school districts do not have to spend their “funds to purchase national motto displays,” stressing that “a governing authority may spend its funds or donated funds to purchase the displays and may accept donated displays.”
In addition to public school districts governing K-12 education in the state, the law also applies to public post-secondary institutions.
While House Bill 8 did not register any opposition in the Louisiana Legislature, artist and separation of church and state advocate Chaz Stevens has expressed implicit disapproval of the push to include the national motto in each public school classroom in the state by launching a GoFundMe page titled “Messin’ w Louisiana.” The page seeks to raise funds to produce “In God We Trust” displays written in Arabic to “challenge accepted Pelican State limits of religious expression and freedom of speech.”
Stevens is offering to produce and ship posters displaying “In God We Trust” in Arabic and emblazoned with rainbow colors that have come to symbolize LGBT activism. The fundraiser expresses a desire to “beat the evangelicals to the school wall.”
Stevens fully expects legal challenges to his efforts and noted that he has retained an attorney. As of Friday afternoon, the fundraiser has raised $687 out of a $25,000 goal.
Louisiana is not the first state to enact legislation mandating the exhibition of the national anthem in public schools. Texas passed a similar policy in 2021, while Tennessee lawmakers passed one three years earlier. Arkansas, Kentucky, South Dakota, Utah, and Virginia are among the other states that compel schools to display the national motto. Mississippi law compels the exhibition of “In God We Trust” in all public school classrooms, auditoriums, and cafeterias throughout the state.