In God We Trust’ posters waiting on frames

Published 12:00 am Thursday, June 21, 2001

Vicksburg Warren County School District Assistant Superintendent Jimmie Mullins stands with many of the “In God We Trust” signs that have been mandated by state law to be hung in every public school classroom. (The Vicksburg Post/MELANIE DUNCAN)

[06/21/01] A new state rule for schools takes effect in less than two weeks, and the Vicksburg Warren School District plans to comply even if a little late.

Under a bill signed into law by Gov. Ronnie Musgrove in March, a sign bearing the slogan “In God We Trust,” must be displayed in every Mississippi public classroom, school auditorium and cafeteria by July 1.

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“They probably won’t be on the walls by July 1, but they’ll be there by the time school starts,” Superintendent Donald Oakes said Tuesday.

By law, the words “In God We Trust,” which was established in 1956 as the national motto and appears on U.S. money, must appear on an 11-by-14 inch framed background in every room where Mississippi public school students gather.

The local district, which includes 14 schools, received 646 “In God We Trust” posters last week. But Assistant Superintendent Jimmie Mullins, who is in charge of the project, is waiting on the frames, which are not expected to arrive for two weeks. When the frames are delivered, Mullins said, volunteers from Vicksburg Police Department will assemble the plaques, and they will be posted throughout the district as soon as possible.

Oakes said he doesn’t disagree with the legislation, which also calls for an optional moment of silence at the beginning of each school day, but he expects it will create controversy across the state. “I believe in that statement, and I believe in following the law,” he said. “If the state says we’ve got to put them up, then we’ll do it.”

Angela Graves, who has taught sixth grade for two years in the 9,200-student district, said “In God We Trust” will look good hanging in her classroom at Vicksburg Intermediate.

“I fully support it,” Graves said. “It’s a step in the right direction.”

Kraig Rittenhouse, a social studies instructor who retired from Warren Central High School this year, disagreed. Rittenhouse, a 29-year teaching veteran, said he doesn’t have a problem with following the law, but because there are so many religions represented in schools today he feels posting the national motto in classrooms is unnecessary.

“It’s a discontent education doesn’t need right now,” Rittenhouse said. “You can’t legislate morality it doesn’t work.”

Though Mississippi schools are facing tight budgets this year, no funds were provided by the Legislature for the plaques. Mullins said VWSD’s posters were donated by Capitol City Label in Pearl, and the frames were provided at no charge by the American Family Association, a Tupelo-based organization that sells “In God We Trust” posters three for $10. In March, AFA announced plans to donate 32,000 posters to school districts across the state.