NEBRASKA LEGISLATURE
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Sen. Steve Erdman

Sen. Steve Erdman

District 47

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Straight Talk From Steve…

August 31st, 2018

 

Our national motto has come under attack. Last month the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court’s ruling from last December, which ruled that the practice of putting “In God We Trust” on our nation’s coinage and currency violates neither a person’s freedom of speech nor their religious rights.

Atheistic groups, led by attorney Michael Newdow, have been relentlessly challenging public displays of our national motto and consistently losing their battles in court. Their fear that our national motto might somehow give rise to a state religion is simply unfounded. As Diana Verm, of the non-profit law firm Becket, said after the Eighth Circuit Court’s ruling, “The good news is you no longer have to be afraid that the pennies in your pocket are gateway drugs to theocracy.”

As in this most recent court case, New Doe Child #1 v. The Congress of the United States, the courts have consistently ruled that displaying the national motto does not violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. In other words, displaying the national motto does not establish Christianity or any other religion as the country’s state religion.

The mere threat of a lawsuit is often enough to intimidate and deter school administrators and school boards from displaying the national motto in our public schools. They reason that displaying the motto simply isn’t worth risking a lawsuit which could potentially cost the school district thousands of dollars. Consequently, our public schools now need some help from state lawmakers.

Florida is the most recent state to afford protection to its public schools for displaying the national motto. Florida’s Governor, Rick Scott, signed a bill in March mandating that all buildings used by Florida’s public schools display the motto in a conspicuous place. Moreover, similar bills have been passed in Arkansas, South Carolina, and Tennessee, and in July the Scottsbluff County Board of Commissioners approved a resolution to display a sign with the national motto at the County Administration Building. Therefore, I believe the time has come for the State of Nebraska to take a similar stand in regards to protecting our national motto.

In January I will introduce a bill mandating that our national motto be displayed in a conspicuous place in all of our state’s public schools. In order to further protect our public schools, my bill will require the State’s Attorney General to intervene on behalf of any school, school administrator, teacher, or school board member in the event of a lawsuit. Moreover, my bill will also allow school boards to accept donations to defray the costs associated with displaying the motto. School administrators and school boards will have freedom to choose how they wish to display the national motto, provided that it is written legibly in English and displayed in a location where students will be able see it and to read it on a daily basis.

Sen. Steve Erdman

District 47
Room #12th Floor
P.O. Box 94604
Lincoln, NE 68509
Phone: (402) 471-2616
Email: serdman@leg.ne.gov
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