The signs had the right message, as required by law. One stated "In God We Trust" over a rainbow background. Another was in Arabic. But the Carroll school district in North Texas rejected the signs, saying it already has enough for its buildings.
"Why is more God not good?" came the retort from Srivan Krishna, a local resident who sought to donate the colorful signs at a school board meeting in Southlake, a city in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, earlier this week.
Board president Cameron Bryan did not take up that question, saying only that by accepting an earlier donation at its Aug. 15 meeting, the school district had enough signs for all 11 campuses and its office building.
The signs are part of pushback on a new Texas law
Krishna and others are testing the limits, and the logic, of SB 797, a recently adopted Texas law that requires public schools to display a poster bearing the U.S. motto, "In God We Trust." The law's main requirements are that the posters include the state and U.S. flags, and that schools don't pay for them.
"The statute does not contemplate requiring the district to display more than one copy at a time," Bryan said in a video recording of the meeting. But Krishna disagreed, saying the law doesn't refer to how many posters should be displayed.
"It doesn't say you have to stop at one," he said. "So that is your decision to stop at one."
"I think it's kind of un-American to reject posters of our national motto," Krishna told the board members.
That remark went unanswered, as the board didn't hold an open debate over whether to accept the signs. Instead, Bryan delivered a "statement of factual information" in which the board told Krishna and his allies that it wouldn't be accepting their signs.
Krishna and others who oppose the state law were only able to speak during the meeting's open comment section, since the signs weren't included on the board's official agenda.
Bryan twice sought to call for the next speaker before Krishna's three minutes had expired. But Krishna stood his ground, and in the end he stood in silence, displaying the four signs he brought.
Another speaker, Jennifer Schutter, later said the posters had been designed by current and former students in Southlake, adding that she was "very disappointed" the board didn't accept the signs.
"Additionally, I think it's important to know publicly that there was an attempt made to get onto the agenda tonight to present those with pomp and circumstance," Schutter said, "and this was refused."
Opponents will keep testing the new law
Efforts to test the new Texas law are being led in part by Florida activist Chaz Stevens, who says he's irked that the law requires inserting an overt religious message into schools.
"That should be irritating for you, regardless of what God or not-God you believe in," Stevens recently told NPR.
Stevens' fundraising campaign to pay for posters and signs putting "In God We Trust" in various languages, including Vulcan, and submit them to school districts in Texas has now raised more than $42,000.