Thursday, October 18, 2018

Atheist group offers to provide “In God We Trust” signs to Florida public schools

As part of Florida's sweeping new K-12 education law, Gov. Rick Scott mandated that all public schools post the state motto — "In God We Trust" — in a prominent location for all to see.

Atheists of Florida wants to help.

In a Monday morning email, the Tampa-based group offered to provide signs with the saying free of charge to all of Florida's more than 4,000 public schools.

Its support would help offset any cost of the requirement, which the Legislature did not fund, while also filling an educational need, executive director Judy Adkins explained.

"We want to help educate about the First Amendment and the establishment clause, as well as about the diversity in our country," Adkins said.

Related coverage: Florida House approves bill to post "In God We Trust" in all public schools 

One draft version of the group's offering would state "E Pluribus Unum, In God We Trust" in the center of a circle with red, white and blue stars and stripes. Around the outside of the circle would be the words of the First Amendment, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof."

Another draft sign would include the motto and show pictures of Jesus, Buddha, Odin and other gods.

"We know they're talking about the Christian God," Adkins said. "But we also know there's a diverse population in the Florida school system that have other gods, or no gods."

The group is conducting a survey through the end of April to determine which gods it will include on its poster. Schools could receive the items afterward, if they want them.

"We hope you will accept our offer," Adkins wrote to the superintendents. "We very much support the public school system and want to help in any way we can."

Some critics of the measure suggested it was not needed, as Florida law already required schools to fly the state flag, which includes the motto. House members, who pushed the legislation, contended the move is critical. Before moving the idea into HB 7055, the House passed a standalone bill 97-10.

"It's important for our students to realize the civic history of our state, and one portion of that history is the fact that we do trust in God," co-sponsor Rep. Ralph Massullo, a Citrus County Republican, said during debate.

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