Florida House Bill 839 / Senate Bill 1158 – a proposal that K-12 schools would post “In God We Trust” in all buildings.
It was just a couple weeks ago that the Florida House of Representatives welcomed an Atheist to deliver a secular invocation. That’s progress, and i’m grateful. But there’s so much more to be done – and pending bill 839 is a symptom of the deeper issues.
The preamble of the constitution of Florida begins with a statement that IS NOT TRUE. It asserts that “we” (all citizens of Florida) are “grateful to Almighty God for our constitutional liberty.” I’m not represented in that statement, and many others are excluded as well. Pew Research Center data indicates that 76% of Floridians hold Christian or non-Christian faiths. The Florida population is about 20 million. That’s 4.8 million who do not claim identity with a religion when asked in a poll.
Not all of those who do claim a religion in polls are believers in God. Some may be Atheistic, Humanistic, Secular, or otherwise culturally or in ritual practice aligned with a faith without belief in the supernatural. Some nonbelievers are “out”, but others are silently waiting in the “closet” for the world to be a safe place for people of all faith and non-faith identities to be open about who they are.
Pew data also shows that only 64% of Americans believe in God with certainty; based on that statistic, more than 7 million Floridians have some level of doubt. This “in God we trust” language demonstrates willful ignorance and disrespect of the diversity of our citizens.
We shouldn’t be allowing religious radicals to advance normalization of faith expectation in schools and other public domains. In fact, the right thing to do is to remove references to G/god(s) and faith expectation so that all citizens can be free to exercise their own faith or non-faith without harassment.
A motto is a guiding principle expressed in a few words. “In God We Trust” was adopted as the official motto of the United States in 1956, replacing “e pluribus unum” (from many, one) which had been on the Great Seal of the United States since its creation in 1782. It was also in the 50’s that God language was added to the Pledge and our currency.
The change was a response to communism as a systemic statement of exclusion of citizens of minority faith perspectives and secular identities. “In God We Trust” has been officially the motto of the State of Florida only since 2006. Belief in the supernatural isn’t a guiding principle, and faith bias shouldn’t be our state motto.
Pending House Bill 839, if passed, would “require, in all of the schools of the district and in each building used by the district school board, the display of the state motto, ‘In God We Trust.'” It would take effect July 1, 2018. Freedom to express (or not express) faith or non-faith is not a license for religious bullies to force their beliefs on others.
“But it is our state motto”, right? The real question is, why isn’t there a move to change our state motto? The current motto is untrue, blatantly disrespects and marginalizes people of non-faith, fosters divisiveness and hate, and demonstrates ignorance about the diverse people it represents – and doesn’t represent.
The bill to force display of religious messaging in K-12 schools was heard in the Education Committee, PreK-12 Innovation Subcommittee, on January 23rd, 2018, with 10 “yes” votes and ZERO “no” votes.
I don’t address political issues very often. I get criticized for that a lot, but it’s not in my wheelhouse & others do it much better. However, this caught my eye and i wanted to ask you to write to your representatives today. Only about 5% of bills end up becoming law, but just its introduction as a bill should be addressed. Let them know what you think about this bill. Even if this only reaches a couple people, your voices make a difference.
- Find your representative here: https://www.myfloridahouse.gov/Sections/Representatives/representatives.aspx
- Find your elected officials: https://www.usa.gov/elected-officials
LINKS & REFERENCES
- HB 839: http://myfloridahouse.gov/Sections/Documents/loaddoc.aspx?FileName=_h0839__.docx&DocumentType=Bill&BillNumber=0839&Session=2018
- SB 1158: https://www.myfloridahouse.gov/Sections/Documents/loaddoc.aspx?FileName=_s1158__.DOCX&DocumentType=Bill&BillNumber=1158&Session=2018
- Track this bill: https://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2018/00839
- Florida Statute 1003.44 Publick K-12 Education, Patriotic Programs, rules: http://www.leg.state.fl.us/statutes/index.cfm?App_mode=Display_Statute&URL=1000-1099/1003/Sections/1003.44.html
- Pew Research Center Religious Landscape Study, Florida Data (2014): http://www.pewforum.org/religious-landscape-study/state/florida/