'In God We Trust' bill clears Alabama Senate
By The Associated Press
MONTGOMERY, Ala. The state Senate is ready for Alabama to join Mississippi in displaying the national motto "In God We Trust" in public schools classrooms.
The Senate voted 32-0 yesterday for a bill by Sen. Bill Armistead, R-Columbiana, that allows public schools to display "In God We Trust" in every classroom, auditorium and cafeteria.
"It reinforces the fact that we have a nation that trusts in God and that our nation was founded by godly people," Armistead said.
The bill still must pass the House and be signed by the governor in order to become law. It will be competing for attention with hundreds of other bills, including the state budgets, in the final six days of the legislative session.
The Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, called the bill "a backdoor scheme to promote religion in public schools."
"Politicians know they can't require prayer or Bible reading, so they turn to these kinds of maneuvers to get around court rulings against state-sponsored worship," Lynn said.
The movement to post the national motto in schools began with the American Family Association, a fundamentalist Christian group based in Tupelo, Miss. In Mississippi, a law went into effect July 1, 2001, that requires the display in every public classroom, cafeteria and gym. Michigan passed a law in December encouraging the display in public buildings and classrooms.
The American Family Association is now pushing for similar laws in other states. Advocates like Armistead are tying it to the terrorist attacks.
"Since Sept. 11, there has been a renewed emphasis on the fact that our country does have a dependence on God," Armistead said.
His bill mandates that the money to pay for the display must come from private sources rather than taxpayer funds.
Lynn said schools should leave religion to the parents. "Schools should stick to reading, writing and arithmetic, not religion," he said.
"In God We Trust" was first placed on coins by the U.S. Treasury in 1864, during the Civil War. In 1955, Congress passed a bill to have the motto placed on paper currency, and it first appeared on bills two years later.
In 1956, Congress passed a resolution declaring "In God We Trust" the national motto.
The use of the phrase has since withstood at least three federal court challenges, including one that led to a 1996 ruling by the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver. The U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear the case.
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