Rep. Rick Saccone is at it again. It was not enough for him to declare 2012 the “Year of the Bible” or pass a resolution for “National Fast Day” in PA. He is continuing his religious agenda by sponsoring PA House Bill 1728, otherwise known as the “National Motto Display Act”, that would require every public school in Pennsylvania to display the message “In God We Trust” somewhere in their buildings. This is obviously another thinly veiled attempt by Saccone to force a religious statement of faith in public schools.
Saccone claims, “This isn’t about evangelizing. This is about celebrating our national motto.” even though the language of the bill itself concedes that “In God We Trust” only became the official U.S motto in 1956. It happened during the Red Scare to inspire nationalism and differentiate U.S. citizens from “Godless Communists” despite the fact that our nation guarantees religious freedom in the 1st amendment of the constitution. It was wrong to do so then and it is wrong to display it in our schools now. Our founding fathers never intended for this to be the motto of this nation, choosing instead the more inclusive phrase “E Pluribus Unum” meaning “From many, One.” The bill also indicates that the motto is rooted in Christian Contextual History. Displaying “In God We Trust” in public schools that contain a religiously diverse student body is divisive and exclusionary and creates the impression of School Sponsorship of religion to young impressionable students. It is a statement of faith displayed before a captive audience of children that come from many religious or non-religious backgrounds.
Even though proponents claim that this bill promotes an historical message, rather than a religious one, the fact that this bill only mentions “In God We Trust” rather than any other type of historical text makes these statements ring false. This is something that should be discussed in history class when covering the Cold War, during which the motto was changed.
Not only does this bill indicate a government endorsement of religion but will waste education funds that have already been slashed repeatedly. HB 1728 does not make it clear whether the state or the school districts must pay to purchase, distribute and hang the required display. This means that schools will be faced with implementing an unfunded mandate with only 60 days allowed for them to fulfill it and the necessity of using education funds to do so. The bill also problematically proposes student contests to create artwork of the motto. Not only does this waste valuable time and money but once again gives the impression of a school sponsored religious message to the students.
The bill cleared the educational committee but it will be a number of weeks before it has a chance to be brought to the floor for a vote since the house does not go back in session until that time. Please use this time to inform your friends and call your representatives about this divisive wasteful bill. Let them know that it is unacceptable to force this religious message down the throats of our children.
You can find who your legislators are here: http://www.legis.state.pa.us/cfdocs/legis/home/findyourlegislator/index.cfm?CFID=95246571&CFTOKEN=65922357
Let’s try to spread the word through Facebook, Twitter, email, etc. to rally as many people as possible to contact their representatives and squash this bill on the house floor.