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By Samira Asma-Sadeque

Civil rights advocates are ringing alarm bells about officials distributing “In God We Trust” posters in Texas schools after a state law took effect requiring public campuses to display any donated items bearing that phrase.

“These posters demonstrate the more casual ways a state can impose religion on the public,” Sophie Ellman-Golan of Jews For Racial & Economic Justice (JFREJ) told the Guardian. “Alone, they’re a basic violation of the separation of church and state. But in the broader context, it’s hard not to see them as part of the larger Christian nationalist project.”

The Southlake Anti-Racism Coalition (SARC) said they were “disturbed” by the precedence the posters’ distribution could set.

SARC is disturbed by the precedent displaying these posters in every school will set and the chilling effect this blatant intrusion of religion in what should be a secular public institution will have on the student body, especially those who do not practice the dominant Christian faith,” the group said in a statement.

While the phrase doesn’t explicitly mention any specific religion, many argue that “In God We Trust” has long been used as a tool to forward Christian nationalism.

Christians were instrumental in putting the phrase on coins during the civil war, Kristina Lee of Colorado State University wrote last year, and has since used the phrase as supposed evidence to prove the United States is a Christian nation.

The flags’ distribution in Texas is not the first time that a government body has imposed the phrase.

In Chesapeake, Virginia, the city council ruled in 2021 that every city vehicle was to carry “In God We Trust” motto, a move that would require a budget of about $87,000.

Ellman-Golan of JFREJ said the issue is deeply connected to other concerns, such as women’s health and education in Texas.

“We know that state governments in places like Texas are codifying white Christian nationalist patriarchy into law at an alarming rate,” she added. “The most dangerous examples of this are bans on abortion and gender-affirming care, as well as efforts to censor education.”

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