“In God We Trust” Sign Donations: How Should Districts Respond?
Senate Bill 797, enacted in August of 2022, requires public elementary and secondary schools to display in a conspicuous place in each building of the school or institution a durable poster or framed copy of the United States national motto, “In God We Trust.” The signs must be donated or purchased with private funds and “must contain a representation of the United States flag centered under the national motto and a representation of the state flag, and may not depict any words, images, or other information.”
Once S.B. 797 became law, Patriot Mobile donated signs to districts across the metroplex. In quick succession, other groups created displays of the motto both in Arabic and rainbow lettering signifying support of the LGBTQ community and demanded that those signs be displayed as well.
In response to the controversy, Senator Bryan Hughes, co-author of the law, sent an August 26th letter to the Texas Education Agency, clarifying that S.B. 797 was not intended to force school districts to display more than one poster per building or in languages other than English. Hughes explained the “statutory prescription that the motto be displayed as it appears in [S.B. 797], and with no ‘other words, images, or other information,’ limits the legally mandated display of the motto to only posters or framed copies presented in English.”
Senator Hughes also explained that “nothing in state law prohibits the display of the national motto in any other language… [h]owever, the law requires only the display of a poster or framed copy, as expressly stated in the statute.” Id.
What this means for districts is that a public elementary or secondary school must comply with the statute’s requirements and post one “In God We Trust” poster or framed copy if it is donated and meets requirements under the law. The statute requires that the sign must: (1) contain a representation of the United States flag centered under the national motto and a representation of the state flag; and (2) not depict any words, images, or other information other than the representations listed in Section 1.004 of the Texas Education Code.
If you have any questions or concerns regarding S.B. 797, the attorneys at Leasor Crass, P.C. are available to assist.