West Virginia advances mandate to display ‘In God We Trust’ in schools

FILE-Image of an empty classroom. (Photo by Ben Hasty/MediaNews Group/Reading Eagle via Getty Images)

Public schools in West Virginia may soon be required to display the phrase "In God We Trust" in every building if a bill passed by the state Senate on Monday becomes law.

The bill was introduced by Republican Sen. Mike Azinger, who said he wants to give kids in schools something to look up to and let them know it's OK to "say God" in school.

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"We know there’s a lot of kids that have problems at home, tough times at home that we don’t know anything about," Azinger said, speaking on the Senate floor. "Maybe they’ll look up one day and say, ‘In God We Trust’ and know they can put their hope in God."

The bill is now heading to the West Virginia House of Delegates. It requires public K-12 schools and public institutions of higher learning to display the official U.S. national motto on durable posters or in frames placed in a "conspicuous place" in each building.

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The displays must also contain images of the U.S. national and state flags but can't depict any other words, images or information. They must be either be donated or purchased from private donations.

Similar laws have been passed in Texas, Kentucky, Louisiana, South Dakota, Utah, Virginia and several other states. Mississippi was the first state to pass a law mandating "In God We Trust" be displayed in public schools back in 2001.

Former President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed a law making "In God We Trust" the official U.S. national motto July 30, 1956, two years after pushing to have the phrase "under God" inserted into the Pledge of Allegiance.

"It was adopted during a time of disunity in America, at a time that unity was needed," Azinger said Monday. "And I think that’s where we are in America in many ways."