FORT WORTH — The Austin-based Kaplan Law Firm delivered cease and desist notices to four North Texas school districts recently requesting that they remove all non-compliant “In God We Trust” signs from their schools.
The firm represents a group of concerned parents from the Carroll, Mansfield, Keller and Grapevine-Colleyville school districts, who allege that a Texas law requiring schools to display “In God We Trust” signs that are donated pushes Christian theology and is a violation of their students’ First Amendment rights.
“Our public schools must be places that affirm all students regardless of race or ethnicity, religion, gender identity or sexual orientation,” the parents said in a joint statement. “Our schools cannot be places that prioritize a singular religious ideology nor can they become political battlegrounds.”
The cease and desist notice states that the “In God We Trust” signs, donated by the conservative Christian cell phone company Patriot Mobile, are not compliant with the Texas law because they display more than one Texas state flag and multiple “fully or partially visible five-pointed stars.”
In addition, the Carroll school district refused donations of “In God We Trust” signs displaying the rainbow flag and colors, which the cease and desist notice said is another violation of the law.
In response, the group of parents is donating a poster designed by a Carroll alumnus that displays “In God We Trust” on a solid dark blue background above one Texas flag and one American flag. The word God is in rainbow letters.
According to the legal notice, this parent-donated sign complies with state law and should replace the noncompliant Patriot Mobile posters.
Sravan Krishna, who lives in the Carroll school district and worked with the groups that designed the rejected rainbow posters, said getting the new parent-donated version of the sign into school districts is not the point. They are trying to make a statement about the law.
“We want to celebrate it by including everybody,” Krishna said. “We don’t like the law, we didn’t make the law, but we have to follow the law.”
The cease and desist order is the first step toward legal action against the school districts. According to the order, the school districts have until Sept. 9 to remove the signs donated by Patriot Mobile and replace them with the new signs donated by the parents.
Laney Hawes, a parent from the Keller school district, said if the school districts don’t comply, they are prepared to take the fight to the Supreme Court if necessary.
“We’re willing to fight for our students and our children’s First Amendment rights,” Hawes said.
A representative from Grapevine-Colleyville confirmed in an email to the Star-Telegram that the district had received the notice and “is evaluating its content.” None of the other school districts could be reached for comment Friday.
Carroll, Grapevine-Colleyville and Keller have posted the posters donated by Patriot Mobile. Mansfield received the signs but it’s not clear if the signs are on display.
Hawes said the parents are concerned their students will be indoctrinated by an extreme group of right-wing Christians.
“As a Christian myself, Christianity is not the problem,” Hawes said. “It’s that there’s a version of it being forced upon everyone and that wants to be the basis for which our laws and policies are framed.”