House Bill 8, cosponsored by Republican Reps. Dodie Horton of Houghton and Jack McFarland of Jonesboro, was among the first handful of bills published on the legislature’s website as prefiling opened this week.
The proposal would require all public elementary, secondary and postsecondary educational institutions in Louisiana to display “In God We Trust” in every classroom. Each individual school system governing authority, such as a parish school board, would be able to determine the design of the display with a minimum requirement of a paper sign.
It would allow school systems to purchase the signs with their own money or with donations. Schools could also accept donated signs.
The proposal would amend an existing statute that requires schools to display the motto in every building and teach fifth-graders about it and other “patriotic customs,” such as how to properly display an American flag.
In a phone interview Friday, McFarland said putting the signs in every classroom would be an effective way to invite healthy discussion on the history of the motto.
The phrase “In God We Trust” first appeared on the 2-cent coin in 1864. President Dwight Eisenhower signed legislation to adopt it as the national motto in 1956, and it was placed on paper currency in 1957.
McFarland said he was inspired to file the bill after seeing the nation unite in support for Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin, who suffered a heart attack on the field during a Jan. 2 game against the Cincinnati Bengals.
“That was a defining moment for a lot of people,” he said. “The game just completely stopped and everybody put everything to the side …
“I just think there are certain things in this country we can all get behind… Why would we not want to teach our children about the national motto?”
McFarland said he’s aware some groups might claim the measure would violate the doctrine of separation of church and state, but he said it wouldn’t force a particular religion on anyone.
“Every religion identifies some type of god, whether in the Bible or Quran,” he said. “I’m just asking them to believe in our national motto that’s good enough to be printed on our currency. Why can it not be displayed in our classroom?”
The 2023 legislative session begins April 10.
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