Indiana senator introduces ‘In God We Trust’ bill

Friday, January 18, 2002

An Indiana senator has proposed a bill that would require public schools in the state to display the motto “In God We Trust” in every classroom.

Sen. Johnny Nugent, R-Lawrenceburg, introduced the measure after a few constituents in his home district encouraged him to do so, he said. Those voters also convinced some Franklin County schools to post the motto, Nugent said.

“I think we need to be doing everything we can to encourage high morals in the younger generation,” said Nugent, who modeled the proposal on a Mississippi bill signed into law last July. That bill requires all Mississippi public schools to display the national motto in every classroom.

Nugent’s bill has been assigned to the Senate Committee on Education but has not been scheduled for a reading. The proposal requires that the posted motto be at least 11-by-14 inches framed.

The Indiana Civil Liberties Union has said it would consider filing a lawsuit to stop schools from displaying the motto if the measure becomes law.

“We think it’s a government endorsement of religious faith which the First Amendment clearly prohibits,” said ICLU Executive Director John Krull. “One of the reasons this country is special is because people are allowed to walk their own spiritual paths without government coercion.”

But Nugent says the bill isn’t about religion. “I don’t consider this to be a religious statement,” he said. “I think it’s a patriotic statement that supports the ideas of our founding fathers.”

Krull disagrees. “I suspect if you get Nugent away from the microphone, he would say he hopes there’ll be some other message with this bill than just love of country,” Krull said.

“Amid all this talk about renewing devotion to this country’s fundamental principles, I have yet to see a legislator push to post the Bill of Rights or the preamble to the Constitution in the schools,” he added.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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