There are those who heed the “don’t mess with Texas” warning, and then there are those who do the exact opposite.
Activist Chaz Stevens is in the second band.
He attacks a Texas law that requires public schools to display signs and posters with the national motto “In God We Trust” in “prominent places”. The law requires that the signs were either donated or purchased from private donations to the school.
Stevens, who lives in Florida and is known for his petitions to local governments, heard the law about a week ago and told NPR he was angered by the decision to introduce religion — in this case, Christianity — into schools.
“It should be irritating to you, whatever God or non-God you believe in,” he said.
As far as he knows, there was no requirement that the motto be written in English. He decided to start a fundraising campaign to send posters to schools in the state with the motto written in Arabic instead.
“They didn’t say anything about the language,” Stevens said. “And as an artist, it’s always the art forward for me. So I thought, well, know what looks good…and then it occurred to me that Arabic is beautiful.”
He said his goal with this campaign is the same as with his previous efforts.
“It’s simple – it’s reinforcing hypocrisy itself, turning bureaucracies against themselves, understanding what bureaucratic hypocrisy is,” Stevens said.
Texas law passed in last legislative session
The law was passed last summer. At the time, there were more worries about the pandemic than signs – and it’s only now that more donations are being given, The Texas Grandstand reports.
Republican State Senator Bryan Hughes authored the bill and shared updates as groups started donating in different neighborhoods and schools.
The law requires that posters or signs be donated or “purchased from private donations”, and the American flag and Texas state flag must also be represented on the poster. It “cannot represent any words, images or other information”.
Although the law does not mention that English is the only language that can be displayed, Hughes responded to Stevens’ campaign news.
“Read the bill. The sign must contain the American flag “In God We Trust”, the flag of Texas and “cannot represent” other words or images ” Hughes wrote. “Print whatever you want, but only these signs are admissible under the law.”
Despite this, Stevens goes ahead with his plan. In less than a week, he has raised more than $18,000 and is counting on financing the purchase of the signs.
He said that overall the response has been “extremely favourable”.
Stevens expands the design to include more languages
Public feedback also led Stevens to expand his design. It plans to include Spanish, Hindi and other languages. To ensure he has the right translations, Stevens said he hires translators for each language.
There’s still design work to be done, but Stevens hopes his posters will start arriving in Texas schools within the next two to three weeks.
Other organizations — including the group Yellow Rose Texas Republican Women and Patriot Mobile, which markets itself as a conservative Christian wireless service provider, donated posters printed in English to schools outside of Houston as well as in the Dallas metro area .
Stevens said he didn’t have a list of specific schools in mind, but aimed to send the signs to politically liberal and conservative areas.
“If I send 500 signs, I expect 98% of them not to go up. And that’s a win for me,” Stevens said. “Maybe two out of a hundred go up a wall. And I wanted both. … That proves the point.”
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