School principals across the lovely state of Florida are getting a real special delivery this week -- giant, 1984-looking signs with the state's motto emblazoned across them, to be displayed prominently in their schools. That motto? "In God We Trust."

The new statute is part of a massive education bill signed by Florida Governor Rick Scott earlier this year that also includes such measures as a program providing private school vouchers to bullied students, as well as provisions preventing teacher's unions from bargaining for higher wages and better benefits if more than 50% of the staff does not pay dues. The bill was enacted, partially, to address school shootings like the one earlier this year in Parkland, Florida.

While one's first instinct may be to blame this entirely on "wacky Florida Republicans," that is unfortunately not the case. The measure's main sponsor is actually a Democrat. That's embarrassing!

Via NBC:

The measure was sponsored by Rep. Kimberly Daniels, D-Jacksonville, who runs a Christian ministry, according to the Orlando Sentinel.

"This motto is inscribed on the halls of this great capitol and inked on our currency, and it should be displayed so that our children will be exposed and educated on this great motto, which is a part of this country's foundation," she said when a House committee took up her bill (HB 839). "Something so great should not be hidden."

Someone should probably tell Rep. Daniels that it's the job of Republicans to tell people what religion they have to be. As it turns out, however, Daniels -- an exorcist and self-proclaimed "apostle" and "Demonbuster" who authored a very normal sounding book called "The Demon Dictionary: An Exposé on Cultural Practices, Symbols, Myths, and the Luciferian Doctrine," which she was accused of using campaign funds to promote -- is a rather unique specimen.

When promoting this bill, Daniels actually said, out loud, in a room full of people, that she "thanked God" for slavery, because "if it wasn't for slavery, I might be somewhere in Africa worshipping a tree." She is also not too fond of Jewish people either, having once said "You can talk about the Holocaust, but the Jews own everything."

Did you know Kimberly Daniels believes demons enter children through their Halloween candy? That is a thing you probably should know about Kimberly Daniels.

Yes, Rep. Daniels definitely seems like someone whose business it is to go around telling children what to believe.

The obvious objection to this sign is that it's a violation of the First Amendment, which it clearly is. It is literally the state making a law respecting an establishment of religion. Trusting in God is a religious act. This should be swiftly and easily overturned should anyone decide to challenge it in court. (Except ... Trump is packing the courts with mini-Gorsuches and there's a Big Gorsuch on the Supreme Court right now, hence our emphasis on should.)

On a basic human level, however, it also makes things really freaking uncomfortable for kids who do not believe in God. It sends a message to them that they are not welcome in that school, and that's a cruel thing to do to children. It is the exact opposite of "bullying prevention."

If the sign says "In God We Trust" and you do not believe in God, you're not part of the "We." When you're a kid, and you're in school, that kind of thing matters. It's not going to make those kids go "Oh wow, I guess I'll convert then, if that is the case!," it is going to make them feel more isolated and alone. That sign is designed specifically to make some kids feel good and some kids feel bad, for no other reason than what their personal spiritual beliefs are. It hurts my heart to think of kids feeling that way.

It took me a really long time to fully process the idea that all Christians were not mean. Like, it was something I understood cognitively, but emotionally, my guard was always up. I'm not even sure if it's entirely down now, although I really do try. I just still have a voice in my head going "They're being nice to you, sure, but deep down they think you're bad and they think you are going to burn for all of eternity when you die because you don't believe the same thing as them." And that's because of the way I was treated by kids in my school and, frankly, teachers in my school, who were not exactly very nice to the girl who didn't believe in God. They were also not particularly nice to my gay friends either, or anyone else that was different, as far as I could tell. It was not a pleasant experience.

It's not OK to make kids feel like that, and that should override the desires of people like Rep. Daniels and others to get to proselytize to them while they are in school. Schools are for learning. If kids want to go to religious schools, those exist and they can pay for the privilege. But public schools -- which are funded by everyone's tax money, whether they believe in God or not -- need to stay the hell out of it.

This will accomplish the exact opposite of what those who want this sign in schools want it to accomplish. It will make children feel ostracized and isolated, it will encourage bullying, and it just might make the kids who go through that have some pretty unfavorable impressions of Christians that make take them several decades to get over.


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Robyn Pennacchia

Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse


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