Mottos, Prayers, Courses, and Clubs: To Protect Students' Rights, We Must Keep Church and State Separate.

Author:Newman, Emily
 
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After the latest round of mass shootings over the course of two weekends--gun violence that claimed a life in the Brownsville neighborhood of Brooklyn; four lives in Gilroy, California; twenty-two in El Paso, Texas; and nine in Dayton, Ohio--we again heard messages of grief mixed with prayers that God would heal the terrible wounds inflicted by disturbed, desperate, or ideologically warped young men.

"We are a loving nation, and our children are entitled to grow up in a just, peaceful, and loving society," President Trump said in prepared remarks delivered at the White House on August 5, the Monday morning following a weekend of carnage. "May God bless the memory of those who perished in Toledo," the president intoned, misidentifying the Ohio city where a gunman had murdered nine the previous day. "May God protect all of those from Texas to Ohio. May God bless the victims and their families. May God bless America."

While this rhetoric isn't new, including the false claim that more religion would save us from gun violence, it has gotten more aggressive as it pertains to young people. Case in point: the initiation of Project Blitz, which aims to prioritize Christianity in secular institutions under the guise of religious liberty. One of its main targets is the public school system--the recipients being the children Trump says deserve a just world. Christian mottos, prayers, courses, and clubs are all woven into the project's playbook, and one can only assume attempts to resurrect mandatory recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance is on the horizon.

Motto

Thanks to Project Blitz, students in Louisiana, Arkansas, Tennessee, Florida, Alabama, Arizona, Kentucky, and South Dakota will be inundated with "In God We Trust" signs as they enter schools this coming fall. US courts have ruled that the national motto--adopted in 1956--doesn't violate the First Amendment's Establishment Clause because it endorses all religions equally without supporting one over another. This disregards the fact that not all religions are monotheistic and not all people are religious. In South Dakota, the latest state to require that schools prominently display the motto, some students proposed a more inclusive sign that incorporated other terms along with God, such as "Buddha," "Yahweh," "Allah," "Science," and "Ourselves." The school board ignored the design.

Conservative lawmakers claim the motto will inspire patriotism, but it is the dangerous conflation of nationalism...

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