After a Reporter’s Biased Story of a Christian Politician’s High School Visit, a Student Who Was There Speaks Out

The other day, I posted about Pennsylvania state Rep. Rick Saccone‘s visit to a local high school to discuss, among other things, his plan to put the words “In God We Trust” in every public school in the state.

Rep. Rick Saccone (at podium)

Saccone visited Avonworth High School to speak to students in a “Problems in Democracy” honors-level class. Reporter Trina Orlando‘s coverage of the event for Pittsburgh’s CBS affiliate made it sound like everything went just fine:

“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.

Even though that report featured students who supported Saccone’s bill, and the commentary implied a general level of support, too, the comments on the news station’s website told a very different story. Students who were at the assembly, it appeared, were chiming in that a majority of them firmly disagreed with Saccone — and took him to task for trying to push God into the classroom — and that perspective was missing from the news report.

Yesterday, I was able to get in touch with Max, one of the seniors who attended the event. (I was able to verify that he is, indeed, a student at the school.)

He told me that there were a number of questions asked of Saccone that demonstrated students’ opposition to the bill:

  • How much will the bill cost?
  • Why not use a more secular phrase like “E Pluribus Unum” to display rather than “In God We Trust”?
  • Are there any penalties for not following the bill and, if not, then why make this law?
  • If parents complain about the bill and sue, how would you justify the cost of a legal battle for this bill?

Max felt that Saccone talked down to the audience, not taking the students’ questions very seriously.

After the event, he added, students were discussing how Saccone was wrong — not just about this bill, but on statements he made during the event, like saying that the Founding Fathers never wanted separation of church and state. (Thomas Jefferson and James Madison may beg to differ…)

And what about the two students who spoke in favor of the bill? They were conservatives who agreed with the bill before Saccone even spoke to the class — it may have been fair to include them in the report, but they in no way spoke for most of the other students.

So I reiterate my original question: Why did the news report not include a perspective that was clearly held by many of the students at the event?

From everything I’m seeing, it was bad reporting and lazy journalism. KDKA and Ms. Orlando owe the public an apology for doing their viewing audience a disservice and not showcasing the students’ reasonable opposition to Saccone’s bill.

If the local news can’t offer an objective take on the legislation, how is the public expected to offer educated feedback to their representatives?

I’m still awaiting the station’s response to my email.

***Update***: Another student from the school (I’ve confirmed his identity) corroborates this account.

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