Reviews | Texas is waging war on ‘In God We Trust’ posters in public schools

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SOUTHLAKE, Tex. — Under a new state law, public schools by now “must post in a conspicuous place in every building…a durable poster or framed copy of the national motto of the United States, ‘In God We Trust”. “The main requirements are that the signs must have been donated to the school and must display both the American and Texan flags.

God and country, in other words. But even if you think this message is appropriate for public education (and I don’t), some follow-up questions still arise in our multicultural, multifaith country: whose God do we trust?

And who is “us”, anyway?

Sravan Krishna, a parent in the Carroll Independent School District in this largely white Dallas-Fort Worth suburb, decided to put the law, known as SB 797, to the test.

So, in accordance with district rules, Krishna, who is part of a group called Dignity for All Texas Students, formally requested to be put on the agenda for Monday’s school board meeting. His request was denied, he told me, so he decided to show up for the meeting anyway.

After the middle school students read the Pledge of Allegiance, the floor was opened for public comment. Krishna was the first. He picked up a white box and brought it to the lectern for the three minutes allotted to him.

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First, Krishna held up a framed poster that had the word “God” in LGBT rainbow colors. He had another with “In God We Trust” written in Arabic. “I’m here today to present…the ‘In God We Trust’ posters to schools,” he said. “I would like to ask you to come and accept it.”

The room was quiet – and the school board seemed ready to take up Krishna’s challenge.

Board chairman Cameron Bryan read a prepared statement, thanking Krishna but noting that “In God We Trust” signs had already been donated to the district – by conservative Christian wireless service provider Patriot Mobile.

“As you may know,” Bryan told Krishna, “DSIC accepted, as required by law, the donation of SB 797 at the August 15 board meeting. all 11 campuses plus the administration building now have the poster in accordance with SB 797.” Bryan said the law “does not contemplate requiring the district to display more than one copy at a time.”

Apparently the council interpreted “a” poster to mean just “a” poster, but Krishna still had time, and he had his answer ready. “I’m not leaving,” he said. “It doesn’t say you have to stop at one, so it’s your decision to stop at one. Why isn’t more of God good?

“It’s also our national motto,” he said, “so I think it’s kind of un-American to reject posters of our national motto.”

The room was silent and filled with tension as Krishna showed the rest of the posters on the board. Finally, a beep sounds signaling the end of his time. “It’s my time,” he said defiantly. “I can do whatever I want with it. Do with it.” Then he returned to his seat.

I went to the Carroll ISD meeting because the impasse there is at the heart of the larger battle in this country. As I wrote, Texas is on the front line. The people who wrote SB 797 know exactly what god they are talking about, and who “we” is meant to indicate – and who it is not. The new law is part of the reactionary right-wing white supremacist rot that is spreading at such an alarming rate not just here in Texas, but across the country.

But which vision of America is the fairest? The Krishna posters represent God and America in the form of threatened voices – LGBTQ and Arabic-speaking people – and they weren’t produced by wealthy businessmen but by the Southlake Anti-Racism Coalition, a group of current and former students of the Carroll School District.

“We and the children just want to feel included,” Krishna told me after the meeting. “We are also taxpayers and voters.” Other reunion attendees I spoke to wanted to do “In God We Trust” in Spanish and Braille, saying it would be a true representation of the growing diversity of the Southlake community.

Why is Southlake so afraid of diversity – more variations of God and Americanness? What’s so threatening in a panoply of posters representing America in all its faces and in all its forms? Carroll ISD could have led by example of inclusion and progress. Instead, its leaders are participating in a token attack on democratic participation.

A poster storm could still be brewing. Krishna said his organization would band together and explore other possible remedies. Other community members wondered aloud if they could legally challenge Carroll ISD’s decision. Their determination is as noble as the hypocrisy of Carroll ISD is shameless and sad.

It’s the year of our Lord 2022, for God’s sake. We shouldn’t have to try to kill the old dragons of discrimination and white supremacy.

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