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Patriotic Stevens Students Recognize SB 55 Motto Demand Requires Inclusive Overhaul

Some Rapid City Stevens students are willing to stand up for the First Amendment against Kristi’s creeping Christofascism. In response to the passage of Senate Bill 55, requiring every public school to display the Christian slogan “In God We Trust,” the Rapid City student organization Working to Initiate Social Equality is asking the Rapid City school board to comply with that mandate with a more inclusive design:

WISE, Draft SB 55 compliance design, photo from KEVN-TV, 2019.05.13.
WISE, draft SB 55 compliance design, photo from KEVN-TV, 2019.05.13.

WISE member and Stevens High School student Abigail Ryan lived up to her group’s name with this advocacy for the inclusive design at Monday’s school board meeting:

I think that’s a really foundational element of American society is that we are a cultural melting pot and it is really important that we make all people who come to America to feel welcome and to be more in accordance with the first amendment since we all have the freedom of religion [Abigail Ryan, quoted in Jeff Voss, “Group of Stevens High School Students Propose Modifications to ‘In God We Trust’ Signage,” KEVN-TV, updated 2019.05.14].

Even though we acknowledge that ‘In God We Trust’ is our national motto, we were hoping we could somehow create a design, and show that students really want to be inclusive, and demonstrate that we want to be aware of all religions….

Since we all have the freedom of religion, the establishment clause in the first amendment states that the United States Government and no government agency should be able to prefer one religion over another [Abigail Ryan, quoted in Calvin Cutler, “Rapid City Students Look to Expand ‘In God We Trust’ Requirement,” KNBN-TV, 2019.05.13].

In Ourselves, In Science… there are two things I can get on board with teaching all children

Nonetheless, even the proposed WISE design (which Ryan says is just one of many alternatives the students would offer) poses a problem. By naming a variety of supernatural beings, the school ensures that almost every school employee reciting the display would be forced to say something that he or she does not believe. When members of the teaching staff cannot endorse every word on an official statement from the school, the school should reconsider making that statement.

Separation of church and state prevents the government from endorsing any religion… and that includes endorsing many religions, even alongside the science and self-reliance that schools can and should teach daily. The inclusive design passes First Amendment muster only if we read into it an “or” and view the poster as an affirmation not of particular religious fervor but of our general commitment to democratic pluralism: “We believe in different gods, and some of us believe there are no gods, and that’s o.k., because we’re here to learn to get along and build and share America, regardless of our spiritual inclinations.”

The WISE students appear to understand the overarching need for pluralism. The Rapid City school board didn’t act on their proposal Monday, but we can hope they follow WISE’s recommendation and the signaled course of the Sioux Falls school district to turn Senator Phil Jensen’s theocratic and exclusionary SB 55 into an opportunity to teach kids our common values of pluralistic democracy.


  1. Certain Inflatable Recreational Devices 2019-05-15

    Someday, maybe, Phil Jensen will commit an act that will justify his mother’s decision not to abort him. So far, all the evidence suggests she should have.

  2. mike from iowa 2019-05-15

    No Flying Spaghetti Monster? This won’t pass the garlic smell test.

  3. Loren 2019-05-15

    As long as the Republicans are trying to turn everything upside down and backwards, why don’t we just send kids to church Monday- Friday and they can attend school on Sunday? Saturdays would be AR-15 target practice and NRA indoctrination. Would that be enuf to satisfy Reverend Kristi and her cult?

  4. Donald Pay 2019-05-15

    This is why we elders don’t need to worry about the future of our country. Here is proof that high school students don’t need civics tests, but legislators do. This design at least makes an attempt to address American freedom of religion in all its aspects, while adhering to state law. I like the circle, because it addresses an aspect of Lakota belief. I think the design could be improved by placing more religious beliefs around that circle, but, yeah, great idea. Absolutely fantastic design. If I were still on the school board there, I would recommend the district use that design as a template.

  5. Certain Inflatable Recreational Devices 2019-05-15

    Instead of “In a mythical being we trust,” I propose, “I think, therefore I am.”

  6. Porter Lansing 2019-05-15

    In You We Trust … but, you still pay cash

  7. Buckobear 2019-05-15

    The Buddha is NOT a supernatural being — but I digress.
    I’ve always thought our National Motto was “E Pluribus Unum,” that’s “from many, one” for the non-Latin speakers.
    The current occupant of the white house, his sycophants, the doting members of the republic party, Noe and her toadies have instead given us “e pluribus feces.” You can translate it for yourselves.

  8. John 2019-05-15

    Treaty of Tripoli, 1797, Article 11: “As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion; as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquility [sic], of Mussulmen [Muslims]; and, as the said States never have entered into any war, or act of hostility against any Mahometan nation, it is declared by the parties, that no pretext arising from religious opinions, shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.”

    So said, so approved our Founding Fathers.

    Great work Rapid City Stevens students.

  9. Debbo 2019-05-15

    I like it. Including more options would be fine, then allow students to use the one that feels like the best fit for them.

    In grad school we were discussing the tower of Babel text in the bible. For the reading of it we were able to have a wonderful experience. There were students who spoke 6-7 different languages. They all read simultaneously, in their own language. It was incredible and enlightening.

    I’m thinking of that because if the motto is done right there should be a brief moment that is similar. “In __________ we trust.” That blank is filled by a variety of different words spoken at the same time. It could be a beautiful aural illustration of the room’s fascinating diversity. It could be empowering! 😁😁😁

  10. Kurt Evans 2019-05-15

    WISE’s proposed design name-checks Gautama Buddha but excludes Marx, Darwin and Satan. This seems like trouble as Satanists can sometimes be quite litigious.

  11. grudznick 2019-05-15

    Satan and the Nature should both be on there.

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