In early May, Minnesota State Senator Dan Hall (R) introduced a bill that would allow privately funded posters displaying the national motto “In God We Trust” to be placed in all Minnesota public school classrooms. There may have been a day in the not-so-distant past when a subtle reminder to students that our nation was founded on trust in an authority higher than government, the same authority from which we as Americans derive our natural rights, would have been a unifying, non-partisan measure.
Not in today’s America.
Proving the theory that the most dangerous place in any room is between an offended liberal and a microphone, Senators Scott Dibble (D) and John Marty (D) rose in opposition. Dibble wondered if the bill’s sponsor “ would feel the same if students walked in and instead of the word ‘God’ the word ‘Allah’—which is the word for God in the Muslim religion—welcomes students to their schools.”
Not to be outdone, Marty added, “The money in my wallet has to say ‘In God We Trust.’ I think that’s offensive.”
The month of May is a beautiful time of year in Minnesota, but apparently they still have to deal with the occasional snowflake. No word yet on whether Senator Marty has rid himself of the offensive legal tender. Perhaps donating the offensive legal tender to a charity that actually serves the people of Minnesota would help him feel better.
Fortunately, legal precedent supports Senator Hall’s bill. The United States Supreme Court has rejected appeals seeking to remove the national motto from our currency and the words “under God” from our Pledge of Allegiance. And in Lynch v. Donnelly (1984), the Court stated: “‘There is an unbroken history of official acknowledgement by all three branches of government of the role of religion in American life from at least 1789.’”
Every one of the 11 U.S. Courts of Appeal that have examined this issue has expressly held that our national motto and other references to our religious heritage do not violate the Constitution. Moreover, all fifty state Constitutions contain some appeal and/or reference to God as the Creator of our liberties and the Preserver of our freedoms.
Setting aside the complete lack of any legal reasoning to prevent Minnesota schools from displaying the national motto, if these two Senators are determined to keep the national motto out of Minnesota’s classrooms, they should re-think their strategy.
Taking offense may soon supplant baseball as the nation’s pastime but it is becoming increasingly ineffective. Our twenty-four hour news cycle has been driven for years by the victim-ology, demand an apology, announce a boycott, and wait for a response strategy. America’s response was to elect a President who never apologizes for anything, ever.
Another object lesson in the law of unintended consequences specifically related to the national motto can be learned from the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF). When, after a spate of attacks on law enforcement officers, a few departments decided to add a decal to their patrol vehicles to display the national motto as a symbol of national unity, FFRF sent letters demanding the removal of the motto as a violation of the establishment clause of the First Amendment.
One of the recipients was Chief Adrian Garcia of Childress, TX. Chief Garcia did what anyone should do when one receives a letter from FFRF; he refused to comply with the demands and he called First Liberty Institute, the religious liberty law firm where I work. His case garnered national attention and the movement to add the national motto to patrol vehicles went viral.
If these two state senators aren’t careful, not only will the national motto end up in every classroom in Minnesota, but in every classroom in the country. And that wouldn’t be such a bad thing.
From our nation’s founding to the present day, Americans have been wise to put their trust in God, not government. The Minnesota Senate is demonstrating the wisdom of our national motto and offering a good reason for Minnesota and other states to post it in their classrooms as a daily reminder.
Lathan Watts is Director of Community Relations for First Liberty Institute, the nation’s largest organization dedicated exclusively to restoring and protecting religious liberty for all.
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.