Bill to Put ‘In God We Trust’ Sign in Every Public School in Pennsylvania Gets Through Education Committee

We learned earlier this month Pennsylvania Rep. Rick Saccone (R-obviously), who has a history of sponsoring and supporting unnecessary legislation to promote Christianity, planned to propose legislation to put the words “In God We Trust” in every public school — and possibly every classroom — in the state.

Rep. Rick Saccone (at podium)

As Justin Vacula correctly pointed out then,

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.’

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.”

Last week, House Bill 1728 passed through the House Education Committee on a 14-9 vote.

If you listen to the hearing for the bill in that particular committee, Saccone is grilled by the Democrats who know damn well this is just an attempt to push religion in the schools.

Here’s the committee’s Democratic Chair James Roebuck at the 8:20 mark commenting on how displaying a dollar bill with “In God We Trust” on it could theoretically fulfill the school’s obligations if it were to become law, so why bother at all?

I have some problems in understanding what we’re doing here. We’re saying this is an important thing to do, yet by what you just said, it seems like you could do it in a very minimal way and fulfill the requirements of the bill… I’m not saying whether I think the bill is a good idea or not, but if indeed if it is, as you’re saying, a good idea to do, I’m not certain how just putting it somewhere in a school building fulfills any sort of purpose.

Saccone responds that the display would have to be “prominent,” however a school defined it.

Rep. Mark Longietti, a fellow Christian, made a reference to how church and state ought to be kept separate at the 10:30 mark and how bills like this actually are counterproductive to spreading the Gospel — a backhanded, but strategic, way to tell Saccone this isn’t the best way to proselytize:

… I have an obligation as a Christian to evangelize. The Great Commission tells me to go and make disciples. But it doesn’t tell me to use the government to do that and I think the reason that my faith is that way is because that’s not very effective. It really doesn’t change hearts. What changes hearts is one somebody on a personal level shares their faith…

I think when we do things like this, even though it’s talked about from a historical perspective, we create the false impression that somehow we have done our duty in that we have accomplished what we, if we are Christian as I am, are called to do and, really, we’ve abrogated our duty.

Saccone responded to that by saying this wasn’t about pushing his faith at all. (Sure.) It was just about history. And saving the children from the Evil:

… [It's] also a way of putting positive things like this — virtuous examples — in front of our children. God knows they need it. I mean you look at our children today, our society, it just seems to be spiraling downward and we need good examples to put in front of them. Here is a good example that’s been reaffirmed by our Supreme Court. It’s been upheld as long as we do it in historical sense. It’s fine to post this anywhere. And it’s a Pennsylvania story, something we can be proud of, and celebrate…

Rep. Mike Carroll made a financial case against the bill (18:47):

I’m not sure how in the world the school districts would be able to endure, financially, the challenges that are sure to come with respect to implementing a policy like this.

Saccone’s response? It’s our motto. It’s not a violation of the law. It’s tradition. It’s a risk worth taking. It’s “good for our children.” (Though he never provides any evidence that putting up the motto in schools will improve students’ grades, lives, future success, etc.)

It goes on like this for a while: The Democrats are annoyingly polite while Saccone pretends this isn’t really about pushing faith on anyone. Even though he’s the same person who’s sponsored legislation for the “Year of the Bible” and “National Fast Day.

It’s amazing that legislators are wasting their time debating a bill that has no business being passed in the first place.

When all was said and done, only one of the nine Democrats (Rep. James Clay) on the Education Committee voted for the bill. Only one Republican, Rep. Bernie O’Neill, voted against it.

So now the full House will vote on the bill. And Republicans have the numbers advantage…

For what it’s worth, the legislation suggests no punishment for schools that violate the bill. I would love to see administrators across the state — perhaps urged by some brave students — ignore the bill entirely. Instead of displaying the Godly message, put up messages that actually inspire students — of all religious beliefs. Let’s see how Saccone reacts when people give his unnecessary bill the respect it deserves.

(Thanks to Carl for the link)

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the chair of Foundation Beyond Belief and a high school math teacher in the suburbs of Chicago. He began writing the Friendly Atheist blog in 2006. His latest book is called The Young Atheist's Survival Guide.

  • Rob

    Or you could have students do an art display which has the phrase followed by a question mark. In God We Trust? Do you think Rep. Saccone would be OK with that?

    • Vertigayle

      I like it!

    • baal

      I younger me in HS might very well have gone around adding the “?”.

  • johnnycucumber

    If they get forced to display the sign, how about displaying it in such a way as to promote a discussion? Hang the slogan, with other obvious First Amendment violations, in a civics class under the heading, “Examples of unconstitutional actions”. Use it as a source for essay topics on the constitution.

  • Bruce Martin

    Post this right by the motto:
    “Just 13 years older than the internet.”

    The motto was adopted in 1956 in the Joe McCarthy witch-hunting era, while the first internet connection was in 1969.

    Also one could include photos from this era, such as the Sputnik satellite and the Nixon-Kruschev “kitchen debate.” Plus some scenes from “Mad Men.”

    These would give a true context for the era.

    • Sids

      But kids these days think the internet has existed forever.

  • Bruce Martin

    Or, In god we trust, approved by Congress 3 years after the real MASH ended.

  • observer

    “In God THEY trust.”

  • sam

    I don’t want to get all S.E. Cupp on everybody, but I don’t mind the motto in public schools at all. In fact, one of the most prominent places I can think of to place the motto is on something that everyone in the school, teachers and students, use almost every day. Let’s all push to place the motto on the school’s toilet paper.

  • cgosling

    It is a political ploy designed to insure Teaparty support. Hopefully, moderate religious people will recognize it for what it is and not approve it. Better yet, vote out those who have proposed it.

  • cryofly

    ” I would love to see administrators across the state … ignore the bill entirely.” —- “Let’s see how Saccone reacts when people give his unnecessary bill the respect it deserves.”

    As a gentleman, you are being very lenient towards this bill. This is not an unnecessary bill. This is a threat from Saccone (‘Sack’ in Italian) against the constitution and the commonsense. All that this does is waste tax money and corrupting children’s mind and everyone’s time. I would love to see this bill challenged in the courts, because as the next step, Mr. Sack is going to say, god says earth is 6000 years old.

  • Kodie

    Gotta be shitting me.

  • Sheila Wood

    i live in PA, let this happen, ill be emailing the school every damn day

    • Chris Hollis

      I would suggest doing more than that. Email can be easily ignored.

      • Nico Prime Ferrise

        well phone calls would be awkward “Hi this is John doe, I was wondering if you are complying with this new bill Mr Saccone got passed?”
        option 1
        “No awesome, thank you for respecting everyone’s freedoms.
        option 2
        “you are? I must request that you do not as it is disrespectful of the student’s freedom of(from) religion. I will continue to call you every day until you reconsider”

        or some variation of that

  • SecularPatriot

    If it’s so low cost, and they’re, “leaving it up to schools to decide how prominently they want to display it,” doesn’t it beg the question as to whether they ever wanted to in the first place?

  • Vertigayle

    Who pays for the court challenges if the schools put these signs up and are, inevitably, challenged? (FFRF are you listening?) As usual, another waste of the public’s time and money for useless and unconstitutional law-making. By the way, I loved the aside, “(R-obviously)”. I literally laughed out loud!

    • rhodent

      The FFRF can (and probably will) file suit against the state itself, not the individual schools or school districts.

  • Jason Hinchliffe

    Is it really that hard to understand the constitution? These people are elected representatives who are supposed to understand the limitations of their power. I can’t imagine this surviving a legal challenge. Moreover, it speaks directly to the credibility and competence of every republican (but one) in the house.

  • MariaO

    But which god??
    In Ganesha we trust?
    In Hera we trust?
    In Odin we trust?
    In Quetzalcoatl we trust?
    In Afrodite we trust?
    In Allah we trust?
    In Kali we trust?
    In Krisna we trust?

    • Chris Hollis

      In FSM We Trust?

      • MariaO

        But that is a REAL god!

    • JKomar

      How about Great Architect of the Universe? Being a Mason, I like that one.

      • PaulDouglas1

        Is that like a Masonic Lodge kinda mason?

    • Ron

      In He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named we trust.

    • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

      Cthulhu?

  • tubi11

    The problem is, and this will be their response, that the SCOTUS has allowed it on our money, so what’s the big deal. It’s ceremonial deism.

    Which of course is bullshit. But you know how these people are.

  • Chris Hollis

    Here is my proposal.

    • Ed Adams

      i approve.

  • Jeff Chang

    Look at our children today???
    Statistically there has been no increase in mass shootings and society now is better than ever.

    When their was prayer in schools?
    Segragation.

    • Ron

      Whoa! There you go bringing cold facts into the discussion again.

    • smrnda

      Yeah, look at our kids today. Less violence, less racism, a decline in homophobia and more opportunities for minorities and women, all accompanied by increasing secularism? The only way they can bring back the ‘good old says’ is to stop that and re-instate mandatory prayers, since only through the right god can all these upstarts be repressed in favor of white male heterosexual Christians.

    • Jim Jones

      When there was prayer and bible teaching in schools?

      Lynching.

  • Alierias

    We, stuck living in Pennsyl-tucky, are spending a LARGE amount of $$ to send our child to an Independent School, to get away from this very crap endemic all over this benighted state. The school district next door to ours is Dover; which spend 3 MILLION DOLLARS of taxpayer money defending the attempt to teach creationism in the science class. They still barely mention evolution, and completely ignore the role evolution plays in modern medicine and biochemistry. Not a one of the graduates of my school district is ready to enter college for pre-med, or any other bio/genetics major. It’s a disgrace.

    • Mitch

      With regards to your concerns on creationism and science class, I would agree with Saccone. Kids are being misled and harmed (“spiraling downward”) by this crap. We need positive examples (or, in this case, real science) to give them something to look up to and prepare them for tertiary science classes/degrees.

    • Melissa

      I’m in Michigan and evolution in science class is being tip-toed around, too. My kids’ teachers treat the theory like it doesn’t exist. I’m happy that they’re not being taught creationism as truth like I was (*shudder*), but really, public schools should be embracing the teaching of respected scientific theories – not acting like it’s the elephant in the room.

    • SinginDiva721

      I am all too familiar with that lawsuit. One of my best friends is a teacher at Dover HS and this happened her first year of teaching right out of college. She would call me up and tell me how embarassing it was that this was taking place. She also said it seemed to create quite a rift between some students.

  • Rain

    The Great Commission tells me to go and make disciples. But it doesn’t tell me to use the government to do that

    It doesn’t tell you to go and make disciples either.

    and I think the reason that my faith is that way is because that’s not very effective.

    Yeah using the government to influence religious beliefs isn’t very effective at all. Okay, got any more baloney? It’s almost lunch time over here.

  • Chris Clayton

    There are some telling exchanges. At 21:00, Saccone states that teachers are afraid of posting anything about God, but the motto is something about God that they can post. “We can put these things in front of our kids, with the hope that some of this might sink in.” Rep. Santarsiero than goes to the key question of hearing. “When you said some of this might sink in, what did you mean by that?” Saccone, caught like a deer in headlights, does an about face. Later at 35:00, Saccone incorrectly says it is a great motto that applies to all religions. “People can interpret God in their own way … so it applies to everybody.” “The beauty of it is that it can be embraced by people of all faiths and I encourage people of all faiths to embrace it and I certainly respect all religious faiths.” So there you have it. He wants a religious test for the students of Pennsylvania. As a PA resident, I hope it can be stopped on the full floor, but it is very unlikely at this point.

    • allein

      It never occurs to them that some of us “interpret God” as something that does not exist, and/or in which we do not trust.

  • http://www.holytape.etsy.com Holytape

    How about “In god[s] we may or may not trust, but in science we rely.”

  • TiltedHorizon

    In god we trust is already on US currency. One would think they would use this god endowed cash to keep school programs funded, keep good teachers employed, or to revamp our educational system as a whole so PA can help the US climb the rankings in Education. But noooooooooo…..

    • RandomUsername2012

      Education is a threat to their religious and economic domination.

  • baal

    There might be a silver lining – if this catches steam, it undermines the ‘ceremonial deism’ argument. Adding ‘god’ across a swatch of classrooms looks an awful lot like establishing the xtian religion.

    Were I a snarky teacher, I’d post the motto via money on the walls (secured) so the kids got the right impression about worship.

    • Gus

      That’s why he’s trying so hard to argue it’s a historical thing and has nothing to do with religion. He knows he has to claim that to stay within the law. So until they actually get him on the record saying it’s religious, it doesn’t undermine anything. So that’s the trick with any debate on the measure, when he says it’s a “virtuous example”, he has to be pressed on why, what makes it virtuous? When he talks about society “spiraling downward” he has to be asked exactly how this can have an impact on that and what exactly he means by society “spiraling downward”. With enough pressure and unrelenting questioning of his logic he will hopefully let slip that his purpose is religious and once that’s on the record it could at least be used to stop this particular bill, even if it can’t be generalized to the federal level. But this is just a committee vote, so hopefully it won’t make it into law….

      • PA_Year_of_the_Bible

        Exactly, Maria. I was at the meeting and the Dems on the committee were not willing to really press the issue about “virtuous examples” and “belief in certain virtuous aspects of their life”. Let’s talk about exactly how virtuous this “God” is!

        • Fentwin

          “Let’s talk about exactly how virtuous this “God” is!”
          Well, he did force an underage girl to carry him to term so she could watch himself be executed for his own edification.
          Personally, I don’t think any moral person would have to know much more beyond that heinous scene to determine this supposed “god”s lack virtue.

  • Gus

    Out legislators are such pandering idiots, especially at the state level. Guys like this don’t know how to think, much less govern effectively, but they sure know how to pander to low information voters.

    • Gus

      Our. Not Out. Out legislators are usually much less pandering…

  • JKomar

    Who’s God? Allah, Buddha, Shiva?

  • Janice Clanfield

    Where can I buy ringside tickets to the court when this gets there?

  • Ron

    Great. Be it resolved that all members who voted “aye” shall now demonstrate their trust in God by handling venomous snakes and drinking deadly poison just as Jesus promised in Mark 16:17-18.

  • Rappoz

    Also include Allah Achbar, Hail Zeus, Beloved Athena, Hara Krishna…..

  • duke_of_omnium

    More proof that christianity is like syphilis: it only feels good when it’s being spread

  • Rain

    I’m all for it. I trust my dog and I don’t see why others can’t trust their dog too.

  • L.Long

    And I agree 100%.
    IF and when gawd tells me something ‘I will trust in gawd’.
    Other then that EVERYONE else LIES!!!! Especially those con men calling themselves preachers. And they are NEVER to be trusted.

  • chesco-pa

    Just wrote to my rep (R) and asked him to vote against it. Not much confidence it will make a difference, but at least it’s one more in his inbox.

    • PA_Year_of_the_Bible

      Who is your rep?

  • Sparticulous

    Is this guy retarded? Christianity has no place in public schools. If you want to way around your religion, keep it to a private religious school, paid for by a church. Not public funds.

    • sparticulous

      wave*

  • baal

    I know the bill is more or less par for legislators but I keep hoping they’ll collectively wake up and work on empirically effective solutions to the collective issues we face (i.e. the roll of government). One easy test is to see if you’re on the right track is to imagine a future where your favorite social group isn’t in charge and then see if you’d be ok with the law change.

  • Mark Hatfield

    I’m offended that my tax dollars are going to bs like this. This should be the last thing being decided upon in congress. They should be more worried about getting kids real education than quarreling about religious beliefs. Religion has absolutely no place in politics or education, in fact, it is clearly stated in the U.S. Constitution! As Christopher Hitchens might say “You can have your toys and play with them but don’t bring them to my house and don’t try to make me play with them” Keep this shit to yourself, the age of religious bullying and favoritism needs to end.

  • my_two_cents_worth

    I hope they are appropriating money to both the state and the varying school districts to pay for the legal challenges that will surely follow should this become law.

  • Jim Jones

    Can we also post “Allāhu Akbar” alongside that?

    • scottrose

      Your observation will go right over the heads of these morons!

  • Cdb Spender

    I dont trust in god. It should read “In god some of us trust, sometimes, then we use force”

  • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson
  • http://www.agnostic-library.com/ma/ PsiCop

    If anyone wants me to trust his/her god, s/he is just going to have to make me do so. I’d love for one of them to exhibit the courage to give it his/her best shot.

  • Sids

    “we need good examples to put in front of them.”

    Well if that’s what he really wants, I’m sure he’d be in favour of instead putting the money into training more and better teachers. Right?

    And since when is a sign saying the national motto a “good example”. ‘We want you to grow up to be like a sign’? ‘We want you to grow up to trust in god’? How is that not religious?

  • DesertSun59

    Given the Kitzmiller case and how it was ruled in Dover, PA, something of this nature would never survive a state Supreme Court hearing.

  • Charlie Christiansen

    What pious pieces of sh*t these people are. We are NOT a Christian nation no matter what they think. It’s their personal beliefs they want to FORCE on the rest of us.

  • Keith Ziegler

    Your mythology does not belong in the classrooms you fools


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