Carter County lawmaker will ask attorney general for opinion on “In God We Trust” conflict

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A local lawmaker will ask the state attorney general to weigh in on a legal conflict keeping one public school district from complying with a new state law requiring schools to prominently display “In God We Trust.” 

Carter County is the only public school that has yet to display the motto due to a thirty-year-old federal court injunction, according to Carter County Director of Schools Kevin Ward. 

A 1988 suit claims the county violated the first amendment by holding religious activities on campus. The injunction that followed prohibited the school system from allowing, approving or encouraging religious activity during school hours. 

Now, the central question for the attorney general will be whether displaying the national motto puts Carter County in violation of this injunction. 

Ward and incoming Mayor Rusty Barnett are enlisting the help of State Representative Timothy Hill and other local lawmakers to clarify the potential legal conflict. “The interest is just trying to figure out what is the path forward because we have a school system that wants to be in compliance with state law but is very concerned from a federal injunction and it’s, it’s a vert difficult spot for them to be in,” Hill said Monday. 

Hill’s office is currently requesting an expedited opinion from the attorney general: “An attorney general’s opinion can take months and candidly, I don’t think anyone in Carter County, anyone in the school system…anyone’s really interested in that. We need that opinion back as fast as possible.” 

One Carter County grandmother is strongly encouraging the school system to display the motto. She thinks seeing “In God We Trust” daily will be a positive influence on students constantly bombarded by negativity. “They have been taught to trust in God and they do trust in God and I think it belongs in the schools,” said Leanne Grove, “We need more of that type of message.” 

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