(CNN) — For the new school year, South Dakota public schools will be required to display the national motto: “In God We Trust.”
A bill signed by Gov. Kristi Noem mandates that the words be on display for students to see beginning in the 2019-2020 school year.
The display can be on anything the principal feels is appropriate for their school, like a plaque or student artwork.
But there are requirements. The display must be at least 12 inches square and must be in a prominent location.
“A prominent location is a school entryway, cafeteria, or other common area where students are most likely to see the national motto display,” the bill said.
The bill also protects the schools from legal trouble that may arise from the move. Any schools that face a lawsuit or complaint as a result will be defended by the state attorney general at no cost. If the schools become responsible for legal fees or monetary damages, the state will take those on.
Lawmakers have heard concerns that displaying the motto may alienate students of non-Christian backgrounds.
A group of Stevens High School students in Rapid City spoke to their school board to propose a modification to the sign that would include mention of science, Allah, Yahweh, the Spirits, Buddah, Brahman and “ourselves” in addition to God, according to CNN affiliate KOTA TV.
“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,” student Abigail Ryan told KOTA TV.
The board heard the opinion but took no action, the station said.