Texas just modified the rules for ‘In God We Trust’ signs hung in schools. What changed?

No one can bar a Texas teacher from displaying an “In God We Trust” sign donated to his or her classroom, according to a new state law.

Gov. Greg Abbott signed the bill in a 27-second video shared on Twitter on Thursday evening. The policy comes after legislators in 2021 passed a law requiring public schools, universities and colleges to display donated signs containing the motto.

“Some teachers complain that they are being denied the ability to display ‘In God We Trust’ — our national motto — in their classroom. Well, I’m going to fix that,” Abbott said, signing House Bill 2012.

The 2021 law requires the donated posters or framed copies of the motto be displayed in a “conspicuous place” if they “contain a representation of the United States flag centered under the national motto and a representation of the state flag.” The signs cannot include additional “words, images, or other information.”

Soon after the law went into effect, the Carroll school district accepted “In God We Trust” signs from Patriot Mobile, the conservative-owned phone company. The district later rejected additional signs that included ”In God We Trust” in Arabic and rainbow colors like the pride flag, because they already had signs that had been donated.

This “In God We Trust” poster with the rainbow pride flag in the background was rejected as a donation by the Carroll school district board Monday night.
This “In God We Trust” poster written in Arabic rejected as a donation by the Carroll school district board Monday night.

The rejection raised questions about how many signs schools had to display, whether the motto could be written in a language besides English, and whether the rainbow colors of the flag symbolizing LGBTQ pride fit within the parameters for the signs for required display.

The parameters as outlined in the 2021 bill remain intact with the 2023 update, which says a teacher “may not be prohibited from displaying in a classroom a poster or framed copy of the national motto that meets the requirements” for donated signs.

Lawmakers this year considered a proposal by Rep. Phil King, a Weatherford Republican, to require signs with the Ten Commandments in classrooms. The proposal didn’t pass by the end of the regular session.

Senators continue to meet in the first of what is expected to be several special sessions. Abbott, who sets the policy topics for special sessions, has limited the agenda to border security and property tax relief.

The House has adjourned after passing two related bills May 30.

The Senate has also passed its related bills, but on Thursday referred a new version of the Ten Commandments legislation to a committee despite it falling outside of the session’s policy area.

Also sent to committee was a bill to affirm a school employee’s ability to engage in religious speech or prayer while on duty, and a bill that would allow districts to designate a period of prayer and religious text each school day.