Op-Ed

Leaders should focus on real problems in schools. Posting ads for God isn’t one of them.

Franklin County Schools chose a black and gold plaque to comply with a new state requirement that each school display the ‘In God We Trust’ motto.
Franklin County Schools chose a black and gold plaque to comply with a new state requirement that each school display the ‘In God We Trust’ motto. Franklin County Schools

Our public schools are grossly underfunded with a constant need for new text books, updated technology, and mental health counselors. Kentucky has a shortage of almost 5,000 teachers. One out of five Kentucky children face food insecurity and more than that are hungry. The opioid epidemic is rampant in our state.

It is the job of our elected representatives in the Kentucky legislature to develop strategies and programs to address these issues, to improve the lives of Kentuckians.

Instead of focusing on the problems that face so many of us, the stewards of our state budget are using taxpayer time and resources to require signs reading, “In God We Trust” to be prominently displayed in each public school in Kentucky.

I shake my head in disbelief but really I should be used to this behavior by now. The leaders in Frankfort spend more time worrying about my soul than my family’s pocketbook. They don’t care about keeping church and state separate in Kentucky. They don’t mind the state will have to spend taxpayer money to defend an unconstitutional law in court.

This isn’t the first law the state legislature passed knowing it was blatantly unconstitutional, that it would be challenged in court, and the state would be out thousands of dollars to defend it. Why would our lawmakers waste taxpayer dollars in such a frivolous manner? “To make a point,” they said.

The bill requiring the “In God We Trust” signs was introduced by Rep. Brandon Reed, a minister from Hodgenville. Perhaps Mr. Reed, along with a good number of his peers in Frankfort, need a refresher on middle school civics. It isn’t the job of lawmakers to legislate morality, to support religion, or to “make points.”

These elected officials don’t serve the people of Kentucky. They serve their own religious beliefs, which don’t have any role in our public schools or any place in our state government. The Constitution guarantees us freedom from religion.

I am not anti-God, anti-Christian, or anti-religion. There are valuable lessons for our kids in Christianity sure, just as there are in Judaism, Islam, and Hinduism. We can show our students love and acceptance by reflecting those qualities in our demeanor and our interactions with them. We don’t need a sign advertising God over every door to teach our students morality.

I would much rather Kentucky spend its dollars on hiring teachers, fighting poverty, and recruiting well-paying jobs for our residents. These are the tasks we need our legislators to accomplish.

With all the money we are spending on signs that people won’t read and if they do, will become so accustomed to they’ll be overlooked in a matter of days, we could be paying for school lunches, buying supplies, or hiring school nurses. Having “In God We Trust” signs in every one of our 1,568 public schools will do nothing to improve the quality of education our children receive. What a waste of time by our state legislature and a waste of resources by our already cash-strapped public schools.

We deserve better.

Shelley Roberts Bendall is a writer and former community columnist living in Lexington.

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