PA House rep proposes legislation mandating public schools display “In God We Trust”

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Rick Saccone -
Rick Saccone –

Rick Saccone — member of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives who proposed legislation which eventually declared 2012 to be “The Year of the Bible” in Pennsylvania — has proposed legislation requiring Pennsylvania’s public schools to prominently display “In God We Trust” on mounted plaques or student-created art projects.

Saccone’s memorandum reads as follows:

In the near future, I will be introducing legislation requiring public schools in the Commonwealth to display prominently our nation’s motto, “In God We Trust.”

The motto “In God We Trust” is part of the history and heritage of the United States. On April 22, 2014, we will celebrate the 150th Anniversary of our national motto “In God We Trust” on our coins.

While this phrase was first introduced to the nation by Francis Scott Key in 1814 in the words of our national anthem, it was a Pennsylvanian, James Pollock, the 13th Governor of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, who was responsible for suggesting the installation of these words on our coins during his term as Director of the United States Mint. In April of 1864, Congress first approved the use of the motto on United States two-cent pieces, and since then, the motto has been inscribed on most denominations of coins in an uninterrupted period of time extending from the present back to 1916.

In 1956, the United States Congress adopted the motto “In God We Trust” as the national motto. Since 1957, the United States Bureau of Engraving and Printing has gradually incorporated the motto in the design on the reverse of all paper currency.

With this rich history in mind, my legislation will require every school district to display the motto in each school building. The display of our nation’s motto may take the form of mounted plaques or artwork from a student contest that will be prominently displayed in each school building.

Please join me in this celebration by signing on to this legislation.

Thank you for your consideration.

Following Saccone’s memorandum, legislation was introduced to the house education committee on October 1. See the document here.

Public schools which ought to be secular — neutral in regards to religion — will be forced to prominently display religious messages if Saccone’s proposal is passed. Students will undoubtedly receive the message that belief in God — particularly the Christian god — is patriotic and the false message that the United States is a ‘Christian nation.’

Promoting this proposed legislation, Saccone released a YouTube video.

The video details the Christian-infused history of the “In God We Trust” placement on coins which was spearheaded by a man known as ‘the great Christian governor’ and director of The United States Mint who declared that the United States “vindicate [its] character” by “honoring the God of nations” on “national coinage.”

…but what about those who do not ‘trust [the Christian] God’ whether they are atheists, agnostics, Unitarian Universalists, pagans, secular Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims, or people of other religious traditions? Rick Saccone has a response in his video:

“No matter what god you serve or if you serve no god at all, “In God We Trust” is still our national motto.”

In other words, the faith of a particular subset of Americans should be memorialized on coinage and public schools ought to take part in the fusion of patriotism and Christianity.

E Pluribus Unim, the former de facto national motto, would be a much better inclusive choice for coinage and display in public schools which hasn’t been hijacked by lawmakers like Rick Saccone who want to see Christian beliefs injected into government.

Instead, children are exposed to religious messages and Christianity is conflated with patriotism. Saccone elaborates,

“I’ve introduced legislation requiring all public schools to display our national motto “In God We Trust” for our children to learn of and revere. Like our flag, we should celebrate and display our national motto. We should teach our children the value of patriotism in history. […] Our country sorely needs a return to traditional values and a reminder of the things that have made our country a nation like no other. May God bless you and may God bless America.”

I wonder if Saccone would want public schools to talk about the secular history of the United States including founding fathers who believed in a deistic god – a ‘god of nature’ who designed the universe but was not active in human affairs. Saccone’s “traditional values” — whatever they might be — and conflation of patriotism with Christianity ignores the contributions of secular Americans who “made our country a nation like no other.”

As months go by, religion continues to creep into Pennsylvania’s government proceedings. Whether mayors consider the free speech of atheists to be “unfortunate,” city councils initiate government-led prayer at council meetings, house representatives approve/introduce “The Year of the Bible” legislation, Prayer Month legislation, The Year of Religious Diversity legislation, an attempt to remove anonymity from individuals engaging in lawsuits seeking to uphold the separation of church and state, an attempt to criminalize “profane discourse” outside houses of worshipNational Fast Day legislation, or American Religious History Week legislation, Pennsylvania lawmakers continue to erode the wall separating church and state. The list sadly continues to grow.

Oppose Rep. Saccone’s prospective legislation requiring public schools to display “In God We Trust.”

Contact members of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives – especially, if you are a Pennsylvania resident, your representative.

Sound off on Rep. Saccone’s Facebook page.

Send Rep. Saccone an e-mail.

Write about this on your platform of choice including social network site(s), blog(s), and other venues.

Consider using the following short message as a template:

Rep. Saccone of Pennsylvania’s 39th legislative district plans to introduce legislation requiring public schools in Pennsylvania to prominently display “In God We Trust.” This legislation introduces a historically Christian-based phrase into public schools which are to be free from religious influence. “In God We Trust” conflates patriotism with Christianity and excludes millions of Americans who hold no belief in any gods or hold non-Christian beliefs including atheists, agnostics, Unitarian Universalists, pagans, secular Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, and Muslims. Please do not support Rep. Saccone’s proposed legislation and affirm the secular character of public schools in Pennsylvania. 

As always, feel free to comment below.

(Thanks to Carl Silverman for the tip!)

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