After Texas school districts started receiving donated posters and framed copies of the national motto, “In God We Trust,” which they are required to display in accordance with a new state law, a political activist in Florida has started a GoFundMe to provide districts with signs of national motto in Arabic and a number of other languages.
The new law says a Texas public elementary or secondary school or an institution of higher education “must” display a durable poster or framed copy of the motto in a “conspicuous place” in each building if the poster or framed copy is “donated for display at the school or institution” or “purchased from private donations and made available to the school or institution.”
“The law seemingly presumes these signs are written in English. Oopsie,” GoFundMe organizer Chaz Stevens said. “We’re going to donate hundreds of Arabic-language ‘In God We Trust’ posters to schools in Texas, flooding the public school system with our Arabic IGWT artwork.”
Stevens said the project is meant to voice dissent with Texas Senate Bill 797. He says he has brought on multiple Middle-East-based translators to independently verify the work, as well as an artist, and a linguistic expert, to help accurately translate “In God We Trust” into Arabic for the signs.
Stevens expects those effort to be completed soon. “Once that is done, we’ll update our artwork, send it to the printers, and get it out to various Texas ISDs,” he said.
“Future artwork will not only include Arabic, but also Hindu, Spanish, Chinese, and perhaps African dialects,” he told CNN.
When asked if he anticipates the issue going to court, Stevens told CNN “the gold makes the laws, so this is certainly an uphill battle with the odds stacked way against me.”
“To me, this isn’t about (…) Texas telling me no … rather, I see it as yet another example in a rapidly expanding problem of ‘diluting the First Amendment - Establishment Clause and all.’ My fight isn’t just in the Lone Star state, but a broad nationwide call to arms,” Stevens said.
To that end, Stevens has expanded his GoFundMe goal to $250,000 and retained an attorney. As of August 25, the project had raised $11,878.
University of North Texas Political Science Professor Kimi Lynn King, who specializes in American Politics, including civil rights and liberties, conflict resolution, judicial decision making, legislative control of the bureaucracy and administrative agency decision making, tells CNN that on its face, Senate Bill 797 does not specify language “despite the fact that it is particularized (and narrow) relating to how the signs are to be configured.”
“One could argue the plain meaning of the legislation by spelling it out in English, represents an intent to have it be government sponsored speech with a specific message they want to convey,” King said. “On the other hand, it could be argued that the law is vague in that it does not identify that it could NOT be written in other languages.”
King says if the law itself was to be challenged, the Texas government would likely defend the expression as “government speech,” which carries more clout and greater protection for sovereign expression.
She pointed out that United States District Judge Aleta A. Trauger in Tennessee in May upheld the 2018 ‘National Motto in the Classroom Act’, noting in her opinion that similar challenges have been upheld and that “the national motto is a ‘symbol of common identity.’”
King said Texas, Tennessee, and a number of other states having similar laws on the books “makes it a perfect storm ripe for Supreme Court review.”