Gov. Noem signed into law a requirement that public schools display the national motto. But the law does not suggest — as your guest op-ed did — that “Christianity is being thrust upon South Dakotans” (Is SD Sanctioning Christianity?” April 11). Both the national motto, “In God We Trust,” and our state motto, “Under God the People Rule,” are most relevant and necessary reminders that we are intended to be a people governed by godly principles.
The U.S. Constitution reminds us in its last paragraph that we must give account to God for our actions, “appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions.”
Neither our national nor our state motto disrespects a “wall of separation” between church and state. They do quite the opposite. The “wall” recognizes that our rule of government must not impose a religion upon the people. At the same time, it encourages the Biblical understanding that the way of blessed governance must support and strengthen godly virtues. “Under God the People Rule” undergirds such understanding, that we must not be separated from those virtues revealed in our godly heritage. We are to remember, as President John F. Kennedy declared, “The rights of man come not from the generosity of the state but from the hand of God.”
Our national and state mottos reinforce the understanding that a free people have the legal right to freely live their faith even in public, without fear of governmental coercion. Separation of church and state guarantees that we’re free to practice faith, or free to not practice faith, according to our conscience. And that freedom also allows us to debate over spiritual matters in the public square.