‘In God We Trust’ bill may pass
Published 12:00 am Tuesday, March 5, 2002
Sen. Bill Armistead, R-Columbiana, said he believes the timing is right for a bill he is sponsoring that would allow "In God We Trust" to be posted in Alabama’s public schools.
The Alabama Senate Education Committee last week voted 4-0 in favor of the legislation that calls for only private funding to be used to pay for the display of the national motto in classrooms, auditoriums and cafeterias statewide.
Armistead said he originally introduced the bill last July during a special session of the Legislature, but believes it will gain more support this time around because of the public’s renewed attention to matters of faith as a result of Sept. 11.
"There is more momentum to do it now," he said. "The timing is good."
Sen. Ted Little, D-Auburn, is among 20 co-sponsors of the bill. He said the bill allows for voluntary displays. Since it is the national motto and appears on U.S. currency, Little said he believes schools have a right to display the phrase.
"Since Sept. 11 there has been a movement to further show openly our resolve that we are a united nation under God," Little said. "This is part of that type of people’s feelings."
At least a dozen other states currently are debating similar bills, and Armistead said Mississippi and Michigan approved their own versions last year. Mississippi’s law required the motto to be placed in schools, but costs were covered by private funding.
The bill passed out of committee with little debate, and Armistead said he does not expect opposition as it goes before the Senate, possibly this week.
"There really shouldn’t be any controversy over it," he said. "It’s on our currency, and it’s our national motto.
"It reflects our nation is still dependent on God."
U.S. coins have carried the phrase since 1863, but it wasn’t until 1956 under the administration of President Dwight D. Eisenhower that Congress declared it the national motto.
Armistead said he draws a distinction between the display of "In God We Trust" in classrooms and the Ten Commandments, not only because the former has the blessings of Congress but because his bill will not involve public dollars.
According to the draft bill, "all costs, fees and expenses incurred by the school in connection with this section shall not be an obligation of the state or any political subdivision
but shall be payable solely from revenues received by the school from any private source."
Armistead said a number of private organizations have said they would fund the displays if the bill is approved by the Legislature.
Although displaying the motto in classrooms is not prohibited by law, Armistead said some school systems have been reluctant to do so for fear of backlash from liberal civil rights groups.
The Alabama Association of School Boards has said it will not take a position on the bill or any others aimed at posting religious and historical documents in public schools because the association’s energy is focused on making sure the schools have adequate funding.
Because the bill does not require any expenditure of state funds, the state Department of Education also has said it will not take a position one way or another on the bill.
Kerry Whipple of The Alexander City Outlook contributed to this report.