Action Alert

Defeat "In God We Trust" in the Public Schools!

Legislation is underway in the Pennsylvania legislature to mandate the display of the phrase "In God We Trust" in every public school building. This is a blatant attempt to favor religion with a public statement of faith in every school.

House Bill 1728, introduced on Oct. 1, by Republican State Representative Rick Saccone, cleared the Education Committee last week with a 14-to-9 vote.

Saccone claims that the measure would promote patriotism through the display of the national motto and "educate" students on Pennsylvanian heritage.

State legislators are elected to represent all citizens, including those of us who do not believe in a monotheistic god or any gods. Both supporters and opponents of the bill recognize that "In God We Trust" is a religious statement. The history of the motto "In God We Trust" evidences no secular purpose; on the contrary, the motto was first adopted in 1956 during the Cold War, as a reaction to the purported "godlessness" of communism. "E Pluribus Unum" [out of many, one] is the entirely secular original motto selected by a distinguished committee of Thomas Jefferson, John Adams and Benjamin Franklin.

A spokesman for the House majority leader says he has "no idea when it might come up for a full House vote; however the Republicans have the House advantage." 

This is not Saccone's first theocratic overture. You may recall that with the help of many Pennsylvania members, FFRF filed suit challenging a resolution sponsored by Saccone that declared 2012 "The Year of the Bible." Although U.S. District Judge Christopher Conner dismissed the case, ruling House officials had legislative immunity, he chastened House officials for "premeditated pandering" and expressed alarm that the resolution passed unanimously.

The phrase "In God We Trust" is not representative of all Pennsylvanians. To be truly accurate, it should say "In God SOME of Us Trust," and wouldn't that be silly? The Pew Research Center reports that nearly 20% of adult Americans, and one in three young adults, is now nonreligious. Students should not be taught that patriotism requires piety. HB 1728 also proposes holding student contests to create artwork for the motto; this creates the impression of school-sponsored endorsement of religion. With bullying rampant it schools, the Pennsylvanian legislature should not be proposing legislation that will divide students rather than unify them.

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