Fayette County school officials have altered their bold state-required displays of the ‘ In God We Trust’ motto by adding language “grounded in historical context,”the district said Thursday.
Josh Douglas, a Fayette County school parent and University of Kentucky law professor, said on social media that he was disappointed in the added text because he thought it highlighted ‘’religious language.”
The school district received widespread praise and national attention in August for responding with a framed dollar bill to the 2019 law requiring the motto be displayed prominently at all Kentucky schools. Many people —including Douglas — thought that approach appropriately avoided making a religious statement in the city’s schools.
“So I was disappointed to see that the schools have now made the display more prominent, highlighting the religious language,” he said. In an interview, Douglas said he was not speaking for the law school or the University of Kentucky, but as a concerned parent and someone who studies constitutional law.
The school district’s initial reaction was also criticized by the legislation’s sponsor, State Rep. Brandon Reed, a Republican minister from Hodgenville. By displaying a framed single dollar bill, district officials had spent time “searching for silly loopholes” to the state law, he said.
In August, Kentucky Senate Majority Leader Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown, also criticized Fayette Superintendent Manny Caulk, saying he did not set a good example by using the dollar bill to comply with state law.
Reed said Thursday that he was “glad to learn that Fayette County Public Schools have reconsidered their display. The change is certainly more in keeping with our intent to foster pride and awareness of our national motto and its place in our nation’s history.”
The additional language includes the heading “In God We Trust” and says: “Prior to 1956, the unofficial slogan of the United States was “E pluribus unum: (Latin for “Out of Many One”), which was adopted when the Second Confederation Congress created the Great Seal of the United States in 1782.
“The historical association of the U.S. Treasury credits Secretary of the Treasury Salmon P. Chase with the development of the phrase ‘In God We Trust’ and its placement on U.S. coins beginning in 1864.
“During the Cold War era, when the government of the United States sought to distinguish itself from the Soviet Union, a joint resolution of the 84th Congress in 1955 made ‘In God We Trust’ the official motto of our nation.
“The resolution passed both the House and the Senate unanimously and without debate, determining that the most appropriate and enduring placement of the national motto was on all U.S. currency and coins. President Dwight Eisenhower signed the action into law on July 30, 1956.”
On Thursday, school district officials in a statement said this about the changes it made:
“As we have consistently shared, our decision to meet the requirements of the new law is grounded in history and reflects the original intent of the 84th Congress. ‘In God We Trust’ officially became our nation’s motto following a joint resolution of Congress in 1955, which was signed into law by President Dwight Eisenhower in 1956.
“Those esteemed leaders declared that the phrase appear on all U.S. coins and currency. The district display of our nation’s motto is in the format 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. Since we can’t assume that everyone who enters our schools is familiar with this history, we added some language to ensure that the display of the back of a dollar bill is grounded in historical context.”