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SD Senate passes bill requiring schools display national motto 'In God we trust'

PIERRE, S.D. -- In what they say is a move to promote patriotism, the South Dakota legislature will soon require public schools to display the United States national motto "In God we trust."

The Senate on Monday, March 4, passed by a 19-13 vote Senate Bill 55, which requires the display in a prominent location on school grounds. According to the bill, the display must be at least 12-by-12 inches in size, and could take the form of a plaque, student artwork or another medium as seen fit by the school principal.

Opponents have said that the decision to display the motto should be left to individual schools at the local level. Before the House ultimately passed it by a 47-19 vote on Feb. 27, opposing representatives questioned how the mandate could be enforced.

The bill includes a section to hold schools and their boards and districts harmless from any resulting litigation on the displays. In the case of a lawsuit, the state's attorney general would defend a school, and the state would incur the associated legal expenses.

SB 55 is part of the legislature's push for patriotism and civic engagement in schools. Republican Gov. Kristi Noem was met with a standing ovation when she proposed in her January State of the State address requiring high school students to pass a United States citizenship test before graduating high school. A bill fulfilling that request faces a Senate vote before it reaches her desk.

SB 55 now moves on to Noem's desk for her signature.