More Information about Florida HB 7055

HB 839 was a one-page bill that would require every school district in Florida to “require, in all of the schools of the district and in each building used by the district school board, the display of the state motto, ‘In God We Trust’ in a conspicuous place.” The bill’s text was rolled into a giant education bill, HB 7055, that is now on the governor’s desk.

FFRF has brought legal challenges to the phrase “In God We Trust,” both as the national motto and on currency, but the phrase has survived due to a legal fantasy that it is merely patriotic and has no religious significance (although the U.S. Supreme Court has never considered this question). Florida’s HB 839 is unquestionably intended as a religious message, highlighting just how wrong courts have been on this issue.

When HB 839 was considered by a House subcommittee, its supporters made clear that the phrase “In God We Trust” is intended to promote religious belief in a deity, not mere patriotism. Lawmakers bemoaned that “we’re taking God out of everything . . . just go into your community right now and see how many young people are even attending church anymore. Many of them don’t even value or respect life anymore.”

The bill’s sponsor, Pastor Daniels, also has unabashedly declared her theocratic intentions, which has led to complaints from FFRF in the past. Daniels recently posted a video to social media where she argued that “we have to be Kingdom-minded no matter what realm we operate in. We have to be Kingdom-minded in the church . . . and even in every position that I hold, whether I’m working in the professional arena, whether I’m working in the legislative arena, you have to be Kingdom-minded. I was getting ready to present this legislation to put prayer back into schools all over the state of Florida.”

This isn’t Daniels’ first time trying to push religion into public schools. In support of a bill last year that required schools to open “forums” at school events for religious speech, Daniels penned a long-winded comment on her Facebook page that tried to justify the law but instead fully admitted its religious purpose. She claimed that “young children were not allowed to pray over their meals” in public schools, a common and thoroughly debunked persecution myth. She also said she was horrified that a coach was not allowed to pray with his players, something that federal courts have held the U.S. Constitution requires and which this law does nothing to change.

In short, there is no doubt that HB 839 was intended to promote a religious message. The bill’s sponsor specifically hopes to undo decades of Supreme Court cases protecting public school students’ right to a secular government. Attempted justifications about the bill’s patriotic goals are merely a smokescreen for its true religious purpose. And now it will be included in a much larger education bill, HB 7055.

HB 7055 also creates two new school voucher programs that will funnel taxpayer dollars promised to public schools to private religious schools. These funds can even be used for private tutors or to purchase computers. Local media has discussed these new voucher programs and the serious threat they are to public schools. 

Freedom From Religion Foundation