"In God we trust" has been the nation's motto since 1956. Itâ??s engraved on coins, printed on dollars, and etched into capitol buildings and courtrooms. Does the phrase belong on an elementary school's sign?
The Pine River Area School Board says yes. They approved the restoration of the Pine River Elementary sign Monday night.
Budget cuts forced the Pine River Area School District to restructure, consolidating the elementary schools. The district wanted a new sign reflecting the change for the new school year.
The artist who made the sign placed "in God we trust" in the corner.
The school's superintendent Jim Ganger said the phrase is part of the artistâ??s trademark, and added he has used it in many pieces.
â??He didn't do it to promote or inhibit religion in any way,â?? explained Ganger. â??It's just part of his work. It was totally innocent.â??
The board received complaints from people saying the school should not be trying to indoctrinate students. So the schoolâ??s attorney was contacted for legal counsel.
The attorneys recommended covering the phrase. The school then asked the artist to fill in the design, which generated more complaints from the other side as to why it was removed.
â??Those things that our nation has been founded on are important for all of us,â?? said Paul Roose, a supporter of restoring the sign.
Monday night board members heard reaction from both sides. They used the Supreme Court's "lemon test" to determine whether the sign infringed upon the separation of church and state.
The board unanimously came to the conclusion that the phrase should be included.
â??The board voted and we're going to live with that. As a district we're going to move forward,â?? said Ganger.
â??That motto could discuss Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, or no religion at all,â?? said Ron Schalow, Pine River trustee. â??If it's the national motto, it should be there. We see that as a generic representation in the words of the motto, not advancing or prohibiting any particular religious thought or belief.â??
The superintendent said heâ??s unsure when the sign will be restored, but he would contact the artist right away.