TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — A Florida artist and political activist decided to use a new Texas state law to troll its government. The law, Senate Bill 797, requires that any posters reading “In God We Trust” that are donated by private individuals to schools must be displayed.
According to the law, the posters must be “donated for display at the school or institution,” as well as “purchased from private donations and made available.” If these requirements are met, the posters must be “displayed in a conspicuous place in each building of the school or institution.”
Chaz Stevens, of Broward County, raised funds to send posters with “In God We Trust” to Texas, but with the phrase written in Arabic rather than English. According to Stevens’ posts about the poster “project” made on his Twitter account, he intends to send hundreds of posters to Texas in a “quest to battle” the new law.
As of Aug. 26, Stevens said the project had raised $30,000 in donations to purchase and send the posters.
In an interview with National Public Radio, Stevens said he was irritated by the idea to put religion in schools.
“That should be irritating for you, regardless of what God or not-God you believe in,” he told NPR. “It’s simple — it’s empowering hypocrisy itself, turning bureaucracies against themselves, figuring out what the bureaucratic hypocrisy is.”
Stevens said he chose to use Arabic as the language because the law “didn’t say anything” about what the posters must be printed in.
However, bill sponsor Bryan Hughes, a state Republican senator, said on Twitter that the bill is intended to have the posters in English.
“Read the bill. Sign must contain ‘In God We Trust’ US flag, Texas flag and ‘may not depict’ any other words or images,” Hughes wrote. “Print what you like, but only these signs qualify under the law.”
Under his interpretation of the law’s language, the implication is that the phrase must be exactly the text described, including the quotation marks.
SB 797 also sets requirements that the posters include “representation of the United States flag centered under the national motto and a representation of the state flag.” While Hughes said the language is supposed to be English, the way the law itself is written is not as specific.
Passed in the Texas Legislature in 2021, the law cleared the state senate unanimously, and passed the state House on a 106 to 35 vote before being approved by Gov. Greg Abbott.