A top state senator sharply criticized Fayette County Superintendent Manny Caulk Friday for allowing schools in his district to display the framed back of dollar bills to comply with the new law requiring the national “In God We Trust” motto to be displayed prominently in public schools.
Senate Majority Leader Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown, said Caulk is “not being a good example to the students in Fayette County as he mocks our national motto.”
“What the Fayette County superintendent has done is a complete slap in the face of the motto of the United States of America.
“Clearly this was an attempt to be mocking. I don’t think it was a very mature and adult decision by the school superintendent and we may have to take some action on it.”
Thayer’s comments to reporters came after a news conference in front of Georgetown’s City Hall about the awarding of nearly $3 million in federal grants to several communities in the state for housing.
Thayer said he would consult with the sponsor of the legislation, Rep. Brandon Reed, R-Hodgenville, about “tightening” the motto law in Kentucky’s 2020 General Assembly. Reed’s bill said in part that beginning in the 2019-2020 school year, local boards shall require each public elementary and secondary school to display the national motto of the United States, “In God We Trust,” in a prominent location in the school.
Thayer said he would let Reed “take the lead” of revising the legislation. Fayette school officials did not immediately comment Friday on Thayer’s comments and Reed, a Christian minister, could not be immediately reached for comment Friday.
But on Wednesday, Reed told the Herald-Leader that “It is extremely disappointing to see Fayette County Public Schools spend time searching for silly loopholes to a law that passed with broad support from both Democrats and Republicans and received over 70 votes in the House of Representatives. “
Caulk said Friday that the decision about the display of the nation’s motto was in no way intended to undermine or mock the actions of the General Assembly.
“We take seriously our responsibility to uphold the laws of our Commonwealth and in this instance, we looked at the establishment of the motto itself to lead the way,” he said.
“We are not robbing our students of understanding the significance of the motto, but rather teaching a lesson in civics and American History to everyone who enters our schools. ‘In God We Trust’ officially became our nation’s motto following a joint resolution of the 84th Congress in 1955, which was signed into law by President Dwight Eisenhower in 1956. To ensure that all citizens are reminded of its significance daily, those esteemed leaders declared that the phrase appear on all U.S. coins and currency.
“Our district is displaying the motto of our nation in the format that is most familiar to the American people – reminding everyone who enters our schools of the significant and enduring placement of the national motto on all U.S. currency and coins. As recently as June 2019, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a lower court decision that keeping the motto on U.S. coins and currency is ‘consistent with historical practices,’” Caulk said.
On Wednesday, Fayette County parent Brittany Pike praised the school district in a Facebook post after she saw the framed dollar bill at her daughter’s school. She said the school district was following the new law in a way that did not make her children feel excluded for not believing in God.
Shortly after, in a post entitled : A Ky School District Found a Brilliant Loophole for the “In God We Trust” Law, blogger Hemant Mehta writing under the heading “The Friendly Atheist” said “It’s a brilliant move.”
Caulk has confirmed that all schools in the district had been provided a framed version of an enlarged copy of a $1 bill to display in a prominent location.
Republican Gov. Matt Bevin did not take questions on Friday in Georgetown. But on Thursday, he told WKYT-TV that “people who try to undermine the intent of something, they’re only robbing their own students of the significance of understanding the importance of God in this nation’s history and frankly, the importance of our currency.”