- By Frank Cerabino Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
The Palm Beach County School District came up with a great way to subvert a ridiculous state law.
In the wake of the mass shootings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland in February, state lawmakers were pressured to take some actions to make students safer.
Out of that call for action came House Bill 839, a measure that mandated every public school in the state post the words “In God We Trust” in a “conspicuous place.”
The law was the mission of Kim Daniels, D-Jacksonville, a sketchy new member of the House of Representatives who is a religious entrepreneur who calls herself an “apostle” and imagines that America is under attack by “witchcraft coming from Kenya to influence our president.”
Daniels’ Spoken Word Ministries is a merchandise-heavy operation with some ungodly expenses, like a birthday Cadillac Escalade for her ex-husband and tax-exempt $1 million home in Davie called a “parsonage.”
She’s a deep well of nuttiness on a variety of topics, such as slavery, which she calls a blessing, and the Holocaust, which she also finds to be not as bad as advertised.
“You can talk about the Holocaust,” she said, “but the Jews own everything.”
In the aftermath of the Parkland shooting, students were mobbing the hallways of the state Capitol demanding lawmakers enact tougher gun laws. Instead, they found it easier to listen to Daniels’ solution.
“It is not a secret that we have some gun issues that need to be addressed, but the real thing that needs to be addressed are issues of the heart,” she said.
And then she talked about how she experienced a holy vision.
“I believe it was God, and I heard a voice say, ‘Do not politicize what has happened in Florida and do not make this a thing of division.’”
God is light, she said.
“And our schools need light in them like never before.”
So God, channeled through Daniels, had this idea to put “In God We Trust” signs” in Florida’s schools.
State lawmakers, who mostly worship the NRA, were so happy for this respite from rejecting 231 gun-control amendments, that they gave Daniels a standing ovation in the Florida House of Representatives and approved her bill 97-10.
At the last minute, the provision was added to an education bill in the Florida Senate. And Gov. Rick Scott signed it into law. So now schools across the state have to post “In God We Trust” signs on every campus.
It’s surprising that God didn’t remind Daniels during her vision that the words “In God We Trust” already appear on every state flag in every public school in the state, and that any kid who goes to public school can read those words on the back of the vending-machine money in his or her backpack.
After the law was passed, The Atheists of Florida stepped in to help, offering to come up with a poster that featured the “In God We Trust” message, but also included the language in the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”
That declined offer would have been more educational. After all, it would be awful in a place of learning to misguide school children with the idea that to be an American you must believe in some kind of supreme being.
The appropriateness of including the words “In God We Trust” in the public sphere, where a separation of church and state also exists, was the subject of a 1970 federal case, Aronow v. United States, which challenged the use of the words on U.S. currency.
The controlling opinion, written by the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, stated that the words “In God We Trust” aren’t to be taken as a state endorsement of religion.
“Its use is of patriotic or ceremonial character and bears no true resemblance to a governmental sponsorship of a religious exercise,” the court wrote.
But ceremonial display wasn’t Daniels’ intent. She was using her state job to push her own religion, blending her preaching business with her lawmaking side hustle. Hey, those $8 prayer CDs and $25 Demon Dictionaries of hers aren’t going to sell themselves.
So every school district in Florida this year has had to manufacture signs to satisfy this new state law inspired by a person who thinks witches and warlocks are trying to destroy America.
“America is under siege, God, when it comes to the place where witches are bold enough to come out and declare that they will have authority over who’s the president of the United States,” she said, during a rambling homily she recorded while driving.
Some teachers in Palm Beach County complained about the signs, which had “In God We Trust” in big, black bold letters on paper printouts that were hung usually in or near the main office. So School Board member Karen Brill followed the lead of St. Lucie and Orange counties, recommending to replace the “In God We Trust” signs with other signs that just show the state seal, which includes those same words.
“I just don’t think anyone’s offended when they see a state seal,” Brill said.
Oops, wait a second. I may be having a vision …
It’s either indigestion or God is telling me that if the school’s printer is down, somebody can just tape a dollar bill to the wall outside the principal’s office.