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Prayer, 'In God We Trust' Bills Focus On Public Schools

Josh James

Lawmakers in Frankfort are weighing bills that would set aside a Day of Prayer each year and require Kentucky public elementary and secondary schools to display the motto “In God We Trust” in a prominent location.

The Kentucky House approved House Bill 166 Wednesday. It instructs the governor to "annually proclaim the last Wednesday in September as A Day of Prayer for Kentucky's Students" and to "call upon the citizens of the state, in accordance with their own faith and consciences, to pray, meditate, or otherwise reflect upon the students of this state as well as their teachers, administrators, and schools."

Participation would be voluntary.

In a letter to lawmakers, the ACLU of Kentucky argued the bill amounts to "governmental direction of and involvement in a private and personal matter – that is, the practice of one’s faith, or decision to practice no faith."

Backers, however, described the call to prayer as a unifying message that could bring students of different faiths together.

In 2014, Kentucky lawmakers added “In God We Trust” displays to the legislature’s committee rooms. This year, lawmakers are reviving a 2018 bill extending that mandate to public schools. If approved, schools would be required to post the motto in a clear spot, like an entryway or cafeteria.

"It's on our money. It's in the House of Representatives and Senate, above the speaker and the president. It's a big part of our history," says Rep. Kevin Bratcher, a co-sponsor. "I know that if you had a poll or a referendum on this, it would be probably 75 percent plus."

Opponents argue House Bill 46 enshrines religious beliefs into law and disregards the religious freedom of students.

The bill was slated for a committee hearing Wednesday.

Josh James fell in love with college radio at Western Kentucky University's student station, New Rock 92 (now Revolution 91.7). After working as a DJ and program director, he knew he wanted to come home to Lexington and try his hand in public radio.
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