Why Didn’t This News Station Tell the Full Story of a Christian Politician’s Visit to a Local High School?

You may recall that Pennsylvania state Rep. Rick Saccone (a Republican, of course) has put into motion a plan to put the words “In God We Trust” in every public school — and possibly every classroom — in the state.

Rep. Rick Saccone (at podium)

Last month, that bill made it through the education committee.

And earlier this week, Saccone visited Avonworth High School to speak to students in a “Problems in Democracy” honors-level class about politics and this bill in particular.

(What the hell was he thinking? He thrives on ignorance and revisionist history, and he’s stepping into the octagon with smart seniors?! Dear lord…)

If you read and listen to reporter Trina Orlando‘s story, though, it seemed like everything went without a hitch:

“I think [the bill] teaches students the history of our national motto and I also think that it reeducates people that there isn’t always a strict separation of church and state,” [student] Brady Collins said.

“I thought that they were very-well versed in the subject. They had great questions. Actually, they had better questions than some of the committee questions I received. So, they did their homework and I thought it was very exciting,” Rep. Saccone said.

Students at Avonworth took an informal vote on the issue prior to today’s debate.

About 60 percent of students supported the bill.

If you watch that news report, you hear from two students, both of whom support Saccone’s bill.

Yet the comments on the news station’s website tell a very different story.

I haven’t been able to confirm these students’ identities but check out what they’re saying:

For the two hours we spent with Rep. Saccone, almost all of the time was a question and answer session from students who disagreed with him, and this article did a very poor job of demonstrating this. A majority of the students in today’s assembly did NOT agree with Rep. Saccone’s intended legislation, and many who started the day agreeing with him left the assembly opposed to the legislation. The students that were against Rep. Saccone’s bill asked many excellent and stimulating questions, and Rep. Saccone would simply not answer the question or answer a completely different question. He often shifted the blame onto other people with valid questions.

Now I get to see the “news coverage” of this and I am incredibly disappointed. Not only did my teacher choose students who shared his and Saccone’s opinions but the news casters did absolutely nothing to try to get an unbiased viewpoint. How is this bill supposed to get any fair debate if it cannot even be covered correctly on the news?

If I learned one thing from this discussion, it is that the people in government and the media really do not care about what the voices of my generation have to say and I will remember this for the rest of my life. Thank you for opening my eyes, Mr. Saccone.

I am also a student who attended the assembly and I was hoping for a solid discussion about the bill. What we received, however, was a condescending Saccone tip-toeing around the questions asked. Rather than engaging in an active debate with us, he would simply state that “he heard this argument before” and would say the same thing time after time.

For example, when addressed with the question of offending people of other beliefs, Saccone would say that he’d been to enough countries to know that people would support the national motto and not be offended by the phrase ‘God’. Not only does that argument not make sense, but it also leaves out Atheists like myself and those who celebrate Polytheistic religions or Pandeists who believe that the creator of the universe actually became the universe. ‘God’ contradicts and clashes with so many views that it is unreasonable to say that no one would have issue with it.

As a student at Avonworth, who was actually in the assembly, this article is entirely inaccurate and misleading. A large majority of the students in the assembly heartily disagreed with Rep. Saccone. The only students that they interviewed were conservative students and were picked by the teacher to be interviewed. One of them was a former House Rep’s daughter. None of the students interviewed were part of the majority who disagreed with the Saccone. Also, the 60% they cited at the end was not accurate, merely a guess that someone made during the question and answer period. Saccone also treated all of the students in the assembly as if they were stupid and, in a condescending manner, did not actually answer questions, but talked around students’ valid points, like Representatives often do. If he thought that our questions were actually good, he did not act like it in the two hours we spent with him. I hope that, in the future, the news actually covers what happens and the voices of students are heard for what they actually said.

The students chosen at the end were chosen by the teacher, both conservative in their beliefs. Once again, showing a very biased opinion with even the teacher involved in the assembly.

The basis is that this news article and the assembly was dominated by inaccuracies, bias, and derogatory statements. The students at this high school should be given more credit for their opinions and openness to debate, not being met by a degrading Representative, and a biased news article

Last night, I attempted to contact the students leaving the comments for more details and the news station for a response. So far, none of them have written back. I’ll update this when I have more information.

(Thanks to Richard for the link)

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • paulalovescats

    Is the station a Fox affiliate? It’s interesting they use the argument “it’s part of our history.” So is a lot of stuff I’m ashamed of.

    • Laura D

      Looks like it’s the local CBS station

      • Mackinz

        Given recent CBS bungles, and CBS’s president being David Rhode (from FOX News), the only difference I see between CBS and FOX is the level of right-wing bullshittery and the name.

    • Ann Onymous

      Let’s teach kids more about the Japanese internment camps! It’s part of our proud American history, right? Or maybe we could post this picture next to the In God We Trust posters, to remind kids of America’s other great deeds:
      EDIT: I am sorry for the size of this picture.

  • Goape

    An incompetent, self righteous blowhard was too inept or uninterested to answer the questions of intelligent students and the news coverage drenched the story in biased opinion. Unfortunately, this sounds like a pretty accurate lesson in modern US politico-religious zealotry.

  • L.Long

    WOW!!! Politically motivated xtian caught lying through their teeth at high speed.
    Who wodda thought!! I’m totally surprised by this!!! ;-}

  • MN Atheist

    Sounds like he got schooled, but as usual this greasy politician did an end-around the students and made sure his view was the one everyone else received.

  • https://soundcloud.com/eddieboydmusic flyb

    If there is full video of this assembly somewhere, it would be great to see it. I bet Saccone thought it would be a cakewalk; that he’d be speaking with a bunch of uninformed high school chumps. You can see the muted surprise on his face in the interview when talking about the questions they asked. Now he and the news are trying to whitewash it and back away.

    • 3lemenope

      Demands to release the raw footage can always be fun.

    • http://frothslosh.typepad.com/ Ol Froth

      Avonworth is a highly regarded school district, the kids there are not dummies.

  • TommyNIK

    People like Rep. Saccone have a twisted sense of history, possibly because of
    books like the the one by discredited “historian” David Barton. They
    scoff at the idea of church/state separation. They will quote mine
    documents to support their bogus assertions, disregarding the wealth of
    information and hard data to the contrary.

    They feel a sense of entitlement simply because the majority of people in
    the US profess some kind of Christian belief (around 76% depending on
    which poll you check on). This is a “tyranny of the majority” mindset
    although they will vigorously deny this.

    Because of this the call they US a Christian nation.

  • busterggi

    Christians can’t handle the truth.

  • Castilliano

    Dear Pennsylvania students,
    Please write to your local newspapers re: this assembly. Don’t forget to send a copy to the Education Committee & your other representatives.
    Feel free to remind them you’ll be voting soon.
    The battle hasn’t been won yet.


  • wtbusdriver

    Glad I no longer live in Pennsylvania.

  • The Other Weirdo

    It’s funny how Christians are so often terrified of communism, yet they behave exactly the same way, stacking the deck to show that everybody always agrees with them. Oh, the irony.

    • UWIR

      During the Solyndra scandal, conservatives were saying that the government shouldn’t be picking winner and losers; the success of a company should be determined by the marketplace rather than the government. But apparently picking winners and losers among religious beliefs is fine.

  • A3Kr0n

    Damn Internets :-)

  • Fentwin

    ““I think [the bill] teaches students the history of our national motto and I also think that it reeducates people that there isn’t always a strict separation of church and state,” ”

    Re-educates? What an odd word to use, yet quite appropriate.

    Anyways, I’m now off to the happy valley re-education camp to learn how Jesus wrote the Constitution.

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

    When asked if he was a history revisionist, Rep. Saccone, gazed back with a distant look in his eyes, “You know that was a good assembly. I was quick on my feet and answered every question with pose and confidence. By the end, not only did 110% of the kids agree with me, and not only did I win souls for Jesus, but they started to chant, ‘Saccone for president! Saccone for president! ‘. They threw flowers at my feet and put a crown on my head, and I was the best Ms. Pennsylvania ever……”

    Angry Jesus

  • Dave

    The Rick Saccone story by Joe Klein.

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/chidy/ chicago dyke, TOWAN

    i’m really impressed by the letter writers. good job students! there’s so much logic and reason there i’m almost inclined to believe in quality american education again.

  • http://frothslosh.typepad.com/ Ol Froth

    This is the school district my daughter will attened beginning in 2015. I’m busy composing letters to my school board members asking why, for one thing, Rep. Saccone was invited in the first place, since Avonworth isn’t in his district, and two, if the teacher who invited him has a political agenda, as some of the students imply in their comments on KDKA’s site.

  • Johnlev

    Well, I post a link to this up to his FB page and *surprise*, he deleted it. Feel free to remind him and his supporters what the true story is.


  • Raising_Rlyeh

    I just find it funny that one of the students uses the term reeducation when he describe learning that there is no separation of church and state. I thought that conservatives hate reeducation and indoctrination because they were godless communist plots.

  • LesterBallard

    Problems in Democracy. Now that’s fucking ironic.

  • Kenneth Polit

    I am ashamed to admit that Saccone is the rep from my district; I didn’t vote for him however.

    • PA_Year_of_the_Bible

      Please consider running against him this coming year.

      • Kenneth Polit

        I have far too many skeletons in my closet to ever consider a career in politics, but thanks for asking.

    • http://frothslosh.typepad.com/ Ol Froth

      He only wins election by a handful of votes, do he’s definatly beatable.

  • Bob Becker

    The student letters H offers are not necessarily more accurate summaries of what happened than the accounts of the two the reporter interviewed. What needs to be checked straight off is whether in fact the teacher chose the two students the reporter interviewed. If so, and the reporter permitted that , the station needs to find new on-air ( you should excuse the expression) “talent” — fast.