- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 25, 2001

RICHMOND The United States' motto "In God we trust" would appear in every public school in Virginia under a bill that passed the House Education Committee yesterday.
Robert G. Marshall, the Prince William Republican who sponsored the bill, said his purpose isn't to inject religion into schools he just wants to see the motto somewhere in them.
"We're not getting into motives. The national motto should be placed on schools paid for by public money," he said, waving two one-dollar bills, which also bear the motto, before the committee.
The measure is just one of several bills filed this year that opponents say place unnecessary mandates on local schools. One bill would try to prohibit students from addressing teachers informally; another bill, which would require students to say the Pledge of Allegiance, will have its first test in the Senate Education and Health Committee today.
The Education Committee, which passed the bill 12-8, was likely its easiest hurdle. It still must pass the full House, then go through the Senate. The House may approve it with little resistance, though, with delegates privately acknowledging that many will be hard-pressed to vote against it in an election year for them.
Gov. James S. Gilmore III said he supports the concept but would want to have the attorney general review the language before signing off on such a bill.
"I have not seen the bill and certainly want to consult with the attorney general regarding the constitutional aspects of a bill like that, but I think that's a good thing to do," Mr. Gilmore said. "We have it on all of our money, why wouldn't we put it in our classroom?"
Those who voted against the bill argued it was bad public policy and said they already believe it is unconstitutional.
"While I certainly appreciate that motto, I suggest it is simply not consistent with the separation that ought to be there," said Delegate Anne G. "Panny" Rhodes, Richmond Republican.
Other delegates wondered about paying for displaying the motto, but Mr. Marshall said he expected schools to just use a display students made in a woodworking class or something similar to that. The bill gives no directions other than that the motto be posted in a prominent position that students would see.
Kent Willis, executive director of the state chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, sent committee members a letter arguing that posting the motto is "constitutionally questionable."
The motto was placed on the dollar bill about 50 years ago, and the U.S. Supreme Court has upheld that, given that it is the national motto. But neither side knew of a case in which the court had specifically ruled on the motto in classrooms.
Still, Mr. Willis argued that the court has typically used the strictest interpretations to try to protect schools from entanglement with religion, and he said posting the motto is the kind of subtle pressure the court has warned against.


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