Richmond --Governor Mark Warner announced today that he would be sending back to legislators amended versions of two of the three "In God We Trust" bills passed during the 2002 General Assembly session.
If the General Assembly accepts the amendments, implementation of all three bills-- which require or allow "In God We Trust" to be posted in courtrooms, local government buildings, and school classrooms-- would likely be delayed to await appropriation of public funds.
The Governor also amended the bill requiring "In God We Trust" in classrooms to allow local school boards decide whether or not to post the motto. The bill, as passed by the General Assembly, required the posting of "In God We Trust" in all classrooms. It also allowed for private funding of the posters. Stating that he did not want to see children being solicited to bring money to school to pay for the posters, Warner removed the private funding provision and added a provision requiring appropriation of public funds.
Warner signed, without amendments, the bill requiring "In God We Trust" in courtrooms because it already contained a provision requiring appropriation of public funds before taking effect.
He amended the government buildings bill-- which allows but does not mandate the posting of the motto-- to require public funding before implementation. Previously, that bill was silent on the source of funding.
All three "In God We Trust" bills passed by large margins that effectively rendered them veto-proof. Whether or not the legislature will accept Warner's amendments remains to be seen.
"The Governor seems to understand that these bills are problematic," said ACLU of Virginia executive director Kent Willis. Putting "In God We Trust' on coins and currency may not seem like the state promoting of religion, but how is a third grader supposed to interpret the phrase when he or she sees it prominently displayed in every classroom."
"And what are children of religious faiths that do not use the word "God" supposed to think?" added Willis. "That their religion is not recognized by the state while others are?

Contact: Kent Willis, Executive Director, ACLU of Virginia, 804-644-8022