A Texas law requires public schools to display “In God We Trust” posters donated to them by private citizens or organizations if the posters meet certain criteria.
While some argue the law violates the separation of church and state, others say it promotes a message of unity.
Texas Senate Bill 797 was passed in 2021 requiring schools and colleges to display “In God We Trust” posters in a “conspicuous place” if they’re “donated for display” or “purchased from private donations.”
In Round Rock, the group Moms for Liberty has presented framed posters to seven campuses with plans to donate dozens more. During a December school board meeting, Linda Avila with Moms for Liberty told the school board, “We have secured funding for Round Rock ISD to place one of these in every single facility,” adding, “Not only that, we'll be going after Williamson County entirely.”
According to Round Rock ISD, framed posters were individually presented by donors to:
- Round Rock High School
- Chisholm Trail Middle School
- Fern Bluff Elementary
- Cedar Ridge High School
- Blackland Prairie Elementary
- Forest Creek Elementary
- Ridgeview Middle School
In an emailed statement Round Rock ISD said,
We are in compliance with the law and have worked cooperatively with volunteers who wished to donate the posters to our campuses.
While the district says they’ve been notified of more pending donations they have not yet received them.
“It’s not political. It’s just about coming together and acknowledging our dependence in God,” said Texas State Senator Bryan Hughes, R-Tyler, who authored the law. CBS Austin asked Hughes about concerns that the law violates the separation of church and state.
“Do you feel like this law crosses a line there?” CBS Austin asked. “We’ve heard that suggestion and I want to state to make sure we're clear-- this bill passed in the Texas Senate unanimously 31-0. Over in the Texas House a bi-partisan super majority—over two-thirds- voted for the bill,” Hughes said.
According to Hughes, the posters don’t promote any one faith, but civil rights attorney Randall Kallinen said the posters don’t represent all faiths either.
“It doesn’t seem to refer to Muslims, Hindus, atheists, Buddhists,” Kallinen explained. While some believe the law stands on solid legal ground, Kallinen said it could one day land before the U.S. Supreme Court which, he explains, has never heard a case in which “In God, We Trust” has been challenged.
“Also, there’s the question of parental guidance. Shouldn't it be up to the parents of minors to dictate whether their child shall be influenced by a certain religion or not?” he added.
“If school staff or students say seeing these posters make them feel uncomfortable in their place of learning, what would you say to them?” CBS Austin asked.
“We understand that and again, I would say folks who are offended by these signs would not like our nation’s Capitol at all,” Hughes said, pointing to “In God We Trust” being the official motto adopted in 1956 that’s currently on display in state and federal buildings across the United States.
“No one is being compelled to believe or not to believe anything. This is just to remind our students that we trust God,” Hughes said.
CBS Austin reached out to several other Central Texas school districts to see if they have received “In God We Trust” poster donations.
Eanes ISD said they received an email this week from someone expressing the intention to donate posters to the district but they had not received them yet.
Other districts including Austin, Lake Travis, Georgetown, and Pflugerville responded to our inquiry saying they had not received any such donations.
According to the state law, in order for the poster to be displayed, it must be durable or framed and have the words “In God We Trust” over a U.S. flag and a Texas flag with no other wording or symbols.