EducationStatewide News“In God We Trust” Signs Donated to Public Schools Violate Texas Law, Austin Civil Rights Firm Alleges

The firm sent cease and desist letters to four Texas school districts after signs with the national motto in Arabic and rainbow lettering were rejected.
September 6, 2022
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On September 2, an Austin-based law firm sent cease and desist letters to Grapevine-Colleyville, Mansfield, Carroll, and Keller ISDs alleging that some donated posters adorned with the national motto “In God We Trust” are in violation of Texas law. 

Senate Bill (SB) 797, authored by Senator Bryan Hughes (R-Tyler), mandates that if a sign with the motto is donated to a Texas public school, it must be shown in a prominent location on campus. 

Kaplan Law Firm specializes in employment and civil rights law. Their practice areas include wrongful termination, inadequate compensation, whistleblowing, discrimination cases, and various other legal specialties. 

Kaplan recently represented an alleged victim of physical abuse at the hands of the Austin Police Department during a “police abuse” protest. The firm also filed suit last week for an alleged violation of overtime rules under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). 

Kaplan’s statement regarding the letters highlights cell provider Patriot Mobile as the company responsible for donating the signs. Patriot Mobile markets itself as “America’s only Christian, conservative wireless provider.” 

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Patriot Mobile has seen electoral success with its financial contributions to local school board elections in North Texas. 

SB 797 outlines specific prescriptions for the donated posters: the signs must contain the American and Texas flags under the motto and no other images.

The Patriot Mobile posters contain stars in the background in addition to the flags. According to the firm, the inclusion of the stars violates the section of the bill that mandates that the display, “may not depict any other words and images.”

The letters came in defense of new posters with the motto that were donated last week and subsequently rejected. These posters included the national motto, but one had the words in Arabic and another had the phrase in rainbow lettering. 

The firm claims that the rejected signs are in line with SB 797 and should replace the Patriot Mobile signs. 

At an August 29 Carroll ISD school board meeting, resident Sravan Krishna attempted to donate the additional signs. 

Krishna’s attempt was unsuccessful, with Carroll School Board President Cameron Bryan telling him, “CISD accepted, as required by SB 797, a donation [of signs] at the August 15th board meeting. All 11 campuses, plus the admin building have the poster pursuant to the statute. The statute does not contemplate requiring more than one copy of the sign to be shown at one time.”

Following the response, Bryan directed the next speaker to come forward. Krishna disagreed, telling Bryan, “No, I am not leaving.”

“[The bill] does not say you have to stop at one, that is your choice. Why is more God not better?” 

The Kaplan Law Firm is representing Krishna and four other North Texas parents. On September 2, the firm gave Krishna and other parents renditions of the news signs and cease and desist letters to deliver to school districts around the Dallas-Fort-Worth area. 

After the delivery of the posters and letters, one parent gave a statement on behalf of those represented by the firm. 

“We are here today to speak out and warn against the attempted takeover of Texas public schools by hyper-partisan politicians and organizations that attempt to turn our children’s classrooms into ground zero for their political culture wars,” she asserted.

Florida activist Chaz Stevens also took issue with the legislation. He started a GoFundMe campaign raising money for the alternate renditions of the motto, which so far has generated $50,000. 

The campaign description reads, “Texas SB-797 requires public schools to display donated signs containing the phrase ‘In God We Trust.’ The law seemingly presumes these signs are written in English.”

“To voice our dissent with Texas SB-797, we’re going to design, print, deliver, and donate 500+ ‘various’ languages (Arabic, Hindi, English Gay Pride, Spanish, Vulcan, Klingon, and others) ‘In God We Trust’ 16×20 posters to schools in Texas,” the description continues. 

Following the attempt by activists to take advantage of loopholes in the law, Hughes sent a letter to the Texas Education Agency (TEA) clarifying the intent and language of the law.

“In both the United States Code and the Texas Education Code, the motto is set out in quotation marks and is presented in English. Accordingly, the statutory prescription[s] limit the legally mandated display of the motto to only posters or framed copies presented in English,” Hughes wrote.

He also noted, “[The bill] only requires a school to display ‘a durable poster or framed copy’ of the motto.” According to Hughes, this wording only requires a singular reference to the motto in order to prevent schools from being overwhelmed with donations.

The Texan reached out to Hughes for comment on the cease and desist order, but did not receive a response by the time of publication. 

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Hudson Callender

Hudson Callender is a reporter for The Texan and a lifelong resident of San Antonio, Texas. Hudson recently graduated cum laude from Trinity University with majors in Economics and Political Science, and loves to study ancient history. Hudson is also an avid mountaineer, backpacker, and paddler, often leading trips to remote wilderness areas. Outside of his love for nature, history, and Lone Star beer, Hudson spends his weekends arguing with his friends about football, and will always stick up for the Baylor Bears, Dallas Cowboys, and San Antonio Spurs.