Written by Don Byrd
The Minnesota Senate passed an amendment to the state’s omnibus education policy bill that would authorize public school districts to post “In God We Trust” in each school. Debate over the amendment highlighted just how tricky such efforts can be.
Specifically, opposition to the proposal does not reflect opposition or hostility to religion or religious liberty. In fact, there are plenty of reasons grounded in respect for religion to be against the display of “In God We Trust” on public school buildings.
The Savage Pacer reports on the at-times heated Senate debate:
Sen. Scott Dibble, D-Minneapolis, voiced his opposition in the form of offering amendments to Hall’s proposal. Each amendment Dibble offered changed “God” to a different word representing a supreme being to various cultures and faith backgrounds represented in Minnesota schools. His amendments included proposals to substitute “God” for “Yahweh,” “Allah” and “Krishna,” among others.
“I think the word ‘God’ is more generic for all gods and that is what the national motto is,” Hall said during the debate. “So, it’s best to use, from my point of view, what the national motto is and not try to change it, because then we are going to open Pandora’s box.”
“Senator Hall, that is where your argument falls right down on its face,” Dibble said. “The word ‘God’ isn’t generic to all. It’s a specific Christian and European derivative.”
“I don’t want my children being indoctrinated in anybody else’s religion, I want to have the ability to do that myself, in the privacy of my own home and I want that to be respected,” Sen. Melisa Frazen, D-Edina, said. “I think it’s inappropriate, short-sighted and open for litigation.”
When it comes to religious displays sponsored by the government, context is key. In the context of public school displays, courts emphasize that school children are especially susceptible to coercion. Shouldn’t we be especially sensitive to the religious rights of children and parents when approaching this issue?
In Minnesota, the Senate passed the bill, SF 3086, with the “In God We Trust” amendment intact and sent it to the House for consideration.