JACKSON, Miss. (BP)–Gov. Ronnie Musgrove signed a law March 23 mandating that public schools display “In God We Trust” in classrooms, cafeterias and auditoriums.
“Our nation was founded as a godly nation and we put it on our money, ‘In God We Trust,'” Musgrove told the Associated Press. The governor, a longtime Southern Baptist, signed the bill despite the threat of a lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union.
The ACLU maintains that requiring a reference to God in public classrooms violates the constitutional guarantee of separation of church and state.
“Contrary to popular belief, the ACLU is a strong advocate of religious liberty,” said Jane Hicks, an ACLU board member in an interview with the Associated Press. “Like the U.S. Supreme Court, we believe the best way to protect religious freedom is by keeping religion and government separate.”
The law, which takes effect July 1, says the slogan must be displayed on a framed background of at least 11-by-14 inches. Supporters say they believe the slogan will withstand a court challenge because it was adopted as the national motto in 1956 and appears on U.S. money.
Legislators did not provide any money for schools to buy “In God We Trust” posters or plaques. However, the American Family Association plans to donate 32,000 “In God We Trust” posters and is looking for businesses or others to buy frames for them, state AFA president Mike Crook told the Associated Press.
Lawmakers in Maryland this year rejected a proposal requiring schools to post the slogan in classrooms. Virginia lawmakers rejected the mandatory posting, but encouraged display of the motto in public schools and buildings.