ANGLES: Constitutional Conundrum: Should national motto mandate stand?


On March 18, Governor Kristi Noem signed Senate Bill 55, requiring all public schools to display the national motto, “In God We Trust, ” in a prominent location by the 2019-2020 school year. 

The bill passed 47-19 in the House and 19-13 in the Senate after many rounds of amendments. 

The Senate Education Committee and the House State Affairs Committee went back and forth between  whether displaying the motto should be an option for schools or a requirement.

The House won out with its decision to make the display a mandate. However, the state legislature anticipated possible legal challenges to the bill with language saying the state will absorb all financial responsibility from any resulting legal  challenge.


Yes, it is a reaction to the intolerant left

jmorinbaxter17 copy.jpgJOSHUA MORIN-BAXTER

It is easy to criticize Senate Bill 55 as a step backward. Already, many academics and journalists are rushing to prove they are progressive by condemning the bill. They are shocked that some backward South Dakotans insist on standing on the wrong side of history. 

And that, exactly, is why SB 55 is important.

The Democratic Party is now the de facto party of colleges and major news outlets. Being immersed in a group of uniform opinion results in intensification of belief, especially given a common enemy. 

Increasingly, these two groups of immense political import have the tendency to dismiss republican viewpoints as intolerant and irrelevant. 

The right is described as espousing a moral mandate that is frightening and out of touch for millions. In reality, the Republican Party is all of these things and more. 

However, the ideology of the left is just as alienating to those on the outside, and the resulting delusion that only the right is hostile to other viewpoints is one of the biggest hurdles to a more unified country.

While the right is often correctly ridiculed for its trademark brand of moral pretension, many journalists, college students and their professors labor under their own blinders of liberal righteousness. Blinders led every major news outlet to predict a Clinton win, sometimes by as much as 95 percent, with nothing but denial to skew their data. 

SB 55 is valuable because it is a reminder. 

It is the same reminder the nation — and, most importantly, news and academics — heard with Donald Trump’s “Can you hear me now?” election. 

It is a reminder that the right constitutes a significant part of the political spectrum and that their opinions cannot be written off simply because America is often told they are wrong. 

SB 55 could only happen in a state in which 80 percent of citizens express a belief in God but believe this cultural pillar is battered by media and excised from schools while supposedly liberal values of acceptance have been forced through. 

The signage will fade into the background, along with hundreds of other posters that students ignore on a daily basis. 

However, SB 55 interrupts the regularly scheduled self-congratulation of the left for its own acceptance and tolerance. It reminds them that many Republicans believe the extreme tolerance of the Democratic Party creates an environment that is as intolerant of dissenting views as anything the Republican party can be accused of.

Joshua Morin-Baxter is a sophomore physics and computer science major from Rapid City, S.D.

No, it alienates people with differing beliefs

John Walker


Senate Bill 55 points to a bigger problem with our national motto.

People of Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, atheism and all other beliefs are part of the United States citizenry. 

In South Dakota, however, a new mandate signed by Governor Noem doesn’t affirm that idea. The new law forces all public schools to display the phrase, “In God We Trust” somewhere in the building. The text of the law is specific that the size of the sign must be, “No smaller than 12 inches tall and 12 inches wide” and that the sign must be “in a prominent location.” 

The law alienates those who have no religious affiliation or those who worship multiple divine beings, such as Hindus.

The bill also shows how the national motto is flawed. 

The state can get away with displaying the words in schools because they argue the law doesn’t show preference to a religion but rather bolsters a sense of national pride.

The argument takes any blame off the state and makes it hard to go against the state directly. 

The current motto doesn’t do justice to the diversity of the U.S. and hinders the openness this country strives to have. 

When Dwight Eisenhower signed a bill in 1956 to make “In God we trust” the national motto, it was to combat communism by spreading religious values. This justification assumes those who aren’t religiously affiliated are dangerous to America and shows favor to being in a religion. 

A national motto should be a phrase that represents all people. An alternative that many prefer is “E pluribus unum” which means “Out of Many, One.”

For a long time, this phrase was considered an unofficial motto by many pre-Eisenhower Americans. Since 1795, the phrase was minted on coins and became required by 1873. The back of the $1-bill has donned “E pluribus unum” since 1935, not to mention its appearance on the earliest depictions of America’s Great Seal. The phrase expresses unity despite differences and would be a good move towards solidarity in a time when so much can divide a nation.

There is nothing wrong with having a belief, but there is also nothing wrong with having no belief. 

Separating government from religion makes sure religious freedom will always be protected. A national motto sends a message about the foundations of the U.S. 

It is our duty to ensure that all beliefs are protected. Creating a country that thrives on acceptance of all beliefs is what will keep these United States strong together.

John Walker is a freshman government major from Sioux Falls, S.D.

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