Illustration of dollar bills with 'In God We Trust' highlighted

Opinion columnist Haley Czuma demerits the decision by Kansas Conservatives to further diminish the separation of church and state.

Opinion

Kansas conservatives recently began to push for a new state law that requires all public school classrooms, buildings, and libraries to display the national motto, “In God We Trust.”

While some, including Kansas Rep. Michael Capps, argued that most classrooms already display an American flag, which is not considered “overkill,” I have to disagree that it is in fact overkill and unnecessary to be required to display “In God We Trust” in classrooms and public buildings.

While this phrase may be considered our national motto and is displayed on all of our currency, the United States is a nation of different religious beliefs and backgrounds — some of which do not involve a god.

It's unfair to enforce a quote that realistically implies one specific religion, Christianity, to be displayed in classrooms. Learning environments should be inclusive to all religious backgrounds.

“Such a law would stigmatize nonbelievers and religious minorities and represent a step toward harsher anti-LGBTQ and anti-abortion measures,” the national American Atheists organization said in a public statement.

Displaying this motto will deter students from being their natural selves if it is not what the motto itself represents. This is especially the case for younger students who may not have the confidence yet to speak up or fully understand.

Tom Van Denburgh, a spokesman for the American Atheists organization, pointed out the strategic influence of pushing for the phrase. 

“A lot of these campaigns are focusing on children. I mean, if you put ‘In God We Trust’ in schools, you're trying to essentially indoctrinate them," Van Denburgh said. 

When President Dwight D. Eisenhower declared “In God We Trust” as our national motto, religious tropes were at a high because of the Cold War. The modern era stands in contrast to organized religion, with many new opinions and beliefs that have arisen since then.

Just because our national motto is “In God We Trust” doesn’t mean that it is excusable to push one religion on those who do not believe in the same one or do not have one.

The bigger question that I contemplate is this: What is the purpose of having the national motto “In God We Trust” displayed in places such as classrooms?

If anything, it will cause more uproar and discomfort than good by associating everyone with the same religion — when what makes a classroom so beautiful is the diversity of backgrounds within.

Haley Czuma is a senior from Chicago studying English creative writing and dance.

Edited by Madeleine Rheinheimer