RAPID CITY, S.D. -- When students return to public schools across South Dakota this fall, they should expect to see a new message on display: "In God We Trust."
A new state law that took effect this month requires all public schools in the state's 149 districts to paint, stencil or otherwise prominently display the national motto.
The South Dakota lawmakers who proposed the law said the requirement was meant to inspire patriotism in the state's public schools. Displays must be at least 12-by-12 inches and must be approved by the school's principal, according to the law.
Associated School Boards of South Dakota executive director Wade Pogany said schools are complying with the law in different ways.
"Some have plaques. Other have it painted on the wall, maybe in a mural setting," Pogany said.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation, based in Madison, Wisconsin, which has legally challenged the motto's inclusion on U.S. currency, alerted its South Dakota members to contact their legislators to express opposition.
"Our position is that it's a terrible violation of freedom of conscience to inflict a godly message on a captive audience of school children," foundation co-president Annie Laurie Gaylor said Wednesday.
In May, a group of students from Stevens High School suggested to the school board an alternate version of the motto they designed that includes the names of Buddha, Yahweh and Allah -- as well as terms likes science and the spirits. The student group Working to Initiate Societal Equality, or WISE, told board members that the standard motto appears to favor Christianity over other religions.
"To my knowledge there's been no discussion among the board about any alternative," spokeswoman Katy Urban said.