California School District Approves 'In God We Trust' Classroom Displays

Trustees of the largest high school district in the country voted 4-1 Monday night to mandate displays bearing the nation's motto — "In God We Trust" — and other historical documents in over 2,300 district classrooms and offices.

The display of the Constitution, Declaration of Independence and Bill of Rights will be included in the posters approved by district trustees in Bakersfield, Calif. Monday night.

Kern County High School District trustee Chad Vegas initially proposed the measure as a way of promoting patriotism. But the idea sparked a contentious debate.

"I'm exteremely pleased the measure passed and was in fact expanded beyond what I had originally proposed," said Vegas.

In addition to placing the displays in over 2,300 classrooms, the posters will also be hung in district boardrooms, libraries, administrative offices and other rooms.

Board President Bob Hampton, a former teacher in the district, told The L.A. Times he would vote against the posters because they reflect a "spiritual agenda."

"The spiritual side of students belongs at home and at church, not in the educational system," Hampton said.

The classroom displays were first suggested by the non-profit group In God We Trust — America Inc., whose president, Jacquie Sullivan, is a Bakersfield councilwoman.

"I encouraged the trustees to put this on the agenda," she said. "It's very important. We need to promote patriotism and promote it in our schools. We can’t just assume that the younger generations are going to have that strong love for God and their country the way the older generations do."

Sullivan's organization has offered to provide funding for the project at Kern.

The councilwoman, who said she is a registered Republican and a Christian who attends a local Baptist church, told that she has neither a religious nor political agenda in pushing for the measure.

"It’s not political. It’s not religious. It’s patriotism," Sullivan said. "American patriotism is love of God and love of country. It's pride in our country."

She believes schools are becoming more casual about teaching children to appreciate the ideals and values the United States was founded on, and she thinks it's important to "get back to the basics."

"Some schools have gotten so lax as to not be pledging allegiance to the flag everyday," Sullivan said. "We can easily get out of the habit of doing good things. (Patriotism) is something that continually needs to be taught."

And she believes that most Americans have faith in God, so having the national motto posted in school shouldn't offend anyone.

"We are faith-based people for the most part," Sullivan said. "Sometimes you have to go with the majority."

Other Bakersfield residents said there's nothing wrong with posting the nation's motto on classroom walls — even if it does mention God.

"Most kids in Bakersfield already have that seed planted, but for the others, it couldn't hurt," Malia Casarez told the Times. "My daughter is just 9 months old and I'm already scared of sending her to school, with all the things you hear about."

Trustee Bryan Batey said he could support displaying the posters in some classrooms, but not all. Two other members on the five-person board have said they do not support the proposal, The Bakersfield Californian reported.

The Kern district superintendent's office and the office of trustees did not immediately return calls from seeking comment.