'In God We Trust' now in Rapid City schools

 Photo courtesy: KOTA
Photo courtesy: KOTA (KFYR)
Published: Aug. 4, 2019 at 5:56 PM CDT
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The motto of the United States "In God We Trust" is now prominently displayed in all 23 Rapid City schools.

"This is a law and we do what we have to do," said Katy Urban, community relations manager with Rapid City Area Schools (RCAS).

The law requires the motto to be displayed "no smaller than twelve inches wide by twelve inches high" and was passed last legislative session. The district opted to put the words near main entrances or in gyms, wherever appropriate space was available.

"It had to be up before the kids came back to school and it went into effect July 1, so our ground crews have been busy getting them up around our district," Urban said.

The move is drawing all kinds of attention - from community members to reporters with major cable news networks and even activists from national organizations.

Benjamin Marcus is one such activist with the Washington D.C.-based Freedom Forum Institute.

"Whether or not this law is constitutional doesn't mean necessarily that it is right," Marcus said.

Right or wrong, the policy is generating a lot of conversation.

"Certainly we live in western South Dakota. That tends to be a conservative community so there are a lot of people who are happy that it is going up," Urban said. "There are certainly some, whether that is staff members, students or other community members that aren't comfortable with it."

Urban says she isn't surprised with the range of comments. Still, Marcus argues the motto sends the wrong message.

"We want students of all religion and none to feel welcome in public schools," Marcus said. ". . . when there is a message that says in 'God' we trust, it might make students who are not religious, who don't believe in God, who believe in multiple gods or have a non-monotheistic world view not feel welcome."

It is the kind of law likely to face a legal challenge, one Marcus believes could end up in the U.S. Supreme Court.

"We know that the court has taken into consideration compulsory attendance and the impressionable minds of young people," Marcus said. "When we post this message, especially in elementary schools, it might be suspect."

However, the court has supported the motto in the past. In June, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected a challenge to the motto printed on U.S. currency.

If there is a challenge to the state law, the legislature has a plan to protect school dollars. Urban says the state has already said it would cover any legal fees stemming from a challenge.