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House panel gives blessing to ‘God enriches’ bill

Saying it just translates a Latin word already in the state motto, a House panel voted Monday to let schools literally put the word “God” into classrooms – as long as it’s connected to the word “enriches.”

Existing Arizona law says teachers and administrators may read or post a variety of things in any classroom. They range from the pledge of allegiance and the national anthem to published decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court and the writings and speeches of the “founding fathers” and presidents.

It also includes the national motto which is “In God we trust.”

SB 1289, which now needs approval of the full House, would add the state motto which is “Ditat Deus.”

Sen. Gail Griffin (R-Hereford)

Sen. Gail Griffin (R-Hereford)

But the proposal by Sen. Gail Griffin, R-Hereford, also says that can be translated into its English version of “God enriches.” That got the attention — and objection — of Tory Roberg, lobbyist for the Secular Coalition for Arizona.

Roberg said it would be one thing if the state were simply going to post the motto, first used in 1863, in its Latin form. Nor does she object to posting the state seal in classrooms with its Latin version of the motto.

“The English translation of the motto is not the Arizona state motto,” Roberg told lawmakers. “We’re talking about allowing teachers to put a sign on the wall with the words ‘God enriches’ with no explanation.”

Roberg conceded that the national motto also contains the word “God.”

But she said courts have allowed it to remain in use, including on U.S. currency, not just because of its history but also “meaningless rote repetition” to the point where it is not seen as an endorsement of religion or even theism. That, Roberg said, is not the case with phrase “God enriches” which is derived from a passage in Genesis, saying it “actively promotes belief in God.”

Added to that, she said, is her claim that 13 percent of children younger than 18 — those in schools — identify as atheists.

But Roberg had no better luck Monday than she had when the measure cleared the Republican-controlled Senate last month on a 17-13 party-line vote. In fact, she actually did worse as Rep. Macario Saldate, D-Tucson, joined with Republicans on the Education Committee for an 8-2 vote to send the measure to the full House.

Rep. Rusty Bowers, R-Mesa, said he doesn’t understand all the fuss, saying he doesn’t consider the words to be intolerant.

“All it would say to someone who believed is there might be some power, any power, as they wish to identify it,” he said.

“They could worship an alligator as a god, they could worship the sun as a god, they could worship a more acceptable, in a miracle sense, other beings as gods,” Bowers said. “But I don’t think it necessarily causes irreparable harm to anybody in an attitude of tolerance for all religion or lack of religion.”

And Rep. Paul Boyer, R-Phoenix, said too much was being made of allowing the English version of the motto being put into classrooms.

“It’s an accurate translation from the Latin,” he said.

Rep. Reginald Bolding, D-Laveen, said his vote against the legislation wasn’t based on Roberg’s objections. Bolding said he sees nothing in law now that precludes anyone from putting up the state motto now, in Latin or English.


  1. It doesn’t matter how much you push your imaginary god into the public sphere, it’s not going to make it any more real. In fact, I’d say attempting to push it like this belies a real sense, deep down, that you know god IS just imaginary, because if it was real, you wouldn’t need to do anything like this, would you?

  2. If you think God isnt real then why are you so triggered by something that isn’t real ?

    Stop crying go get a life and stop being offended by EVERYTHING.

    Especially by things that are “not real”

  3. WTF happened to the separation of church and state?

  4. bradley taylor hudson

    This debate is a waste of time. Mr. Bowers is correct. “God” is individually defined, even among “Christians”, so there is no reason for anyone to be offended by the concept or the use of the word. Now, when people start wanting others to accept their personal meaning, then there is a problem. When we try to pass laws based on what (my) God dictates, then we have a problem. But I am tolerant, even supportive, of anyone’s right to use the word. It is not bad to remind ourselves that there is a power greater than ourselves, even if it’s just luck.

  5. What a colossal waste of time, money & effort!!!

    Arizona has issues and our elected official should have spent their time working on these instead of working on something that was not even on the list. How about working on paying our teachers a living wage, providing for teacher support in the classroom, improving the poor grade of our state’s educational system, just to mention a few of the issues with our schools.

    Why not take the money that may be spent on “translating” these signs and invest in Arizona’s future.
    The signs in Latin were a violation of the Establishment Clause: the separation of church and state. Don’t think the Latin signs were on anyone’s radar but now all of that has been brought to light. So now Arizona may need to defend this action if a lawsuit is brought, even more time & money wasted!!!

    What were you people thinking???

    Not a single one of you is getting my vote and I will actively campaign against your re-election. You can bank on that.

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