“In God We Trust” may be the official motto of the United States but school officials in western North Carolina say it has no business in classrooms.
The Watauga County School District refused to allow members of the Watauga American Legion Post 130 to hang posters in schools promoting the national motto because it might be unconstitutional.
“We got an email from the school saying thank you but on advice of their legal counsel they could not accept the posters because of separation of church and state,” American Legion member Rick Cornejo told me in a telephone interview.
Cornejo, who is also a local Baptist preacher, said the decision to ban the posters has resulted in a lot of hurt feelings.
“It’s disappointing, it really is,” he said. “Educators are asking us for those posters so they can put them in their classrooms but right now they can’t do it – because the school board won’t let them.”
The 16x20 inch framed posters include the words “In God We Trust,” with an American flag in the background.
It reads: “The national motto of the United States, adopted by Congress, July 30, 1956.”
A spokesman for the school district told the Watauga Democrat newspaper that “In God We Trust” was banned on the advice of their legal counsel. They feared someone could see the poster and construe the district was promoting religion.
Cornejo said that’s just silly.
“How is that promoting religion?” he asked me. “It doesn’t say anything about Jesus. I could understand if it was a Bible verse – but it’s ‘In God We Trust.’”
I suspect the school board is wary of militant anti-Christian bigots and their army of legal minions – poised to attack God-fearing Americans with lawsuits.
Now most folks in the Blue Ridge Mountains of western North Carolina are conservative and patriotic. A neighboring county has the posters in every classroom in the district.
So you might be wondering why the folks in Boone have such an aversion to the Almighty.
Three words: Appalachian State University.
“The university is in Boone so we’re dealing with the liberals,” he told me. “Our county is pretty conservative but the town of Boone is pretty liberal.”
The American Legion’s quest to promote the nation’s motto is part of a statewide campaign. They want “In God We Trust” posters in every school and every business in the state.
So far more than 185 businesses in Watauga County have agreed to hang the posters – each one framed free of charge by the American Legion.
“No tax dollars spent,” the preacher pointed out.
Cornejo spent 22 years in the Navy and now pastors Mount Paran Baptist Church in Deep Gap, N.C. He said he never thought he’d see the day that the national motto would be banished from American classrooms.
“We just want the national motto in our school system,” he said.
Pastor Cornejo did make an interesting observation, though. It turns out the national motto may indeed already be in Watauga County classrooms.
“I guarantee you everybody has the ‘In God We Trust’ motto in their pockets,” he said. “Every school in this county has at least a coin or bill with that statement on it.”
The school district might want to check with their legal counsel on whether they can pay teacher with American money – lest they violate the U.S. Constitution.
To all you folks at Appalachian State University, that’s called irony.
Todd Starnes is host of Fox News & Commentary, heard on hundreds of radio stations. His latest book is "God Less America."