- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 24, 2002

Signs proclaiming "In God We Trust" are going up in schools around Virginia under a state law that went into effect early this month.
"Fairfax County has told us this is the law, and we will abide by the law," said Principal G.J. Tarazi of Glasgow Middle School in Alexandria. However, he said, he expects some opposition to the signs when school opens in September.
"There are many people who don't feel comfortable about this," he said, citing concerns that the signs violate the First Amendment's separation of church and state. He also said some atheist students might not accept the phrase. "This law will be challenged."
Some, however, said the signs could be educational for children. "I find that sometimes, with religion, we err on the side of eliminating rather than including," said Principal Pamela Latt of Centreville High School in Fairfax County.
She said her students come from around the world, and the school has had a Buddhist club and a Christian club, among others. "The children find it educational and that is how it should be. This [sign] will spur a discussion in classrooms," she said.
The county's schools have used creativity in posting the phrase. In Glasgow, a green-and-black sign, handmade by an administrator, greets visitors to the school office. A slicker, computer-generated version bordered by the Stars and Stripes hangs in the office of Parklawn Elementary nearby.
The signs will be replaced with permanent plaques before school starts in September, schools spokesman Paul Regnier said.
Because no additional state funding has been provided to schools to print the posters, a group called Family Policy Network based in Bedford County has been supplying them to schools around Northern Virginia. The group has mailed out thousands so far.
In Arlington, signs donated by the network are on school walls, said county schools spokeswoman Linda Erdos. "There has been no reaction to them," she said. "Everyone knew this was happening when the law was passed."
The law mandating that the phrase be posted in schools went into effect statewide on July 1. It was expected to affect around 2,000 public schools, including hundreds in the Washington metropolitan region.
Mississippi, South Carolina and Utah have similar laws. Mississippi was the first state to pass such a law in 2000, while South Carolina, like Virginia, adopted the mandate this year.
"In God We Trust" is the national motto, established by Congress in 1956.
Fairfax County school board member Rita Thompson, at-large, said she was happy with the law. "It is just a great idea that schools should take a stand on this. This is part of our history. Most people have respect for and acknowledge God in the daily process. Why would we want to strip this generation of God?"
Some parents, however, are uncertain how people from certain religious groups will receive the signs.
Connie Lorentzen, a member of Fairfax County's Parent-Teacher Association, said she did not have any personal objections to the plaques, but was concerned about offending other religions.
"Different cultures that believe in God have different names and visions for God. The word 'God' in English could have a negative reaction that could be bad for the climate of a school," she said.
Parent Kathy Stohr, however, said she thought it was a good idea to mandate the plaques in schools because "it is our national motto."
She said she also did not see any conflict with separation of church and state. "This nation was founded on Christian principles and trust in our Creator," she said.


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