RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — All North Carolina public schools would have to display the U.S. motto of “In God We Trust” and the state motto in a prominent area in legislation advancing Tuesday in the General Assembly.
A House education committee voted nearly unanimously for the requirement. North Carolina’s motto is “Esse Quam Videri,” but the displays must use the English translation, “To Be Rather than To Seem.”
State law already mandates the American and North Carolina flags hang in each classroom and the Pledge of Allegiance be recited daily. Like these items of patriotism, schools also would have to provide “age-appropriate instruction on the meaning and historical origins” of the mottos.
Rep. Bert Jones, a Rockingham County Republican and bill sponsor, said some people feel it is “a reasonable expectation of a person’s education” in government-funded schools to know the U.S. and state mottos. Democratic Rep. Cecil Brockman of Guilford County expressed concerns that the displays could violate “our 1st Amendment right to not have religion in our public sector.”
Mike Meno, a spokesman for the American Civil Liberties Union in North Carolina, said the “proposal is divisive and unnecessary.”
“Schools should be inclusive, open, and welcoming to all students, but these displays would send a message to students of different religious beliefs, or none at all, that they are not equally welcome,” Meno said in a release.
But Jones and other bill supporters said it wasn’t requiring anyone to believe a certain way. For example, Macon County GOP Rep. Kevin Corbin said, religion isn’t being imposed on someone who is holding U.S. currency simply because “In God We Trust” is printed on each bill.
“At the end of the day, it’s our national motto, and that’s why you’re asking for it to be up, not to impose the word ‘God’ on anybody or not to define who God is,” Corbin said.
The bill includes $25,000 for the Department of Public Instruction to carry out the proposed mandate — very little when compared to the over 2,600 schools statewide. Jones said he anticipated the motto displays to be constructed by students, perhaps with construction paper on a bulletin board in a prominent area.
The committee passed the measure by an overwhelming margin and it next heads to the House budget-writing panel. Rep. Graig Meyer, an Orange County Democrat, said after the meeting he voted no because he didn’t believe it did anything to truly improve public education.
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