HARRISBURG, Pa. — A bill that would have required Pennsylvania schools to post the motto ‘In God We Trust’ has been altered in the legislature to encourage schools to display the phrase, but not mandate its posting.
As previously reported, Rep. Rick Saccone (R-Allegheny County) has been known in Pennsylvania for sponsoring bills surrounding the acknowledgment of God in American history. He was behind a bill that declared 2012 “The Year of the Bible” in the Commonwealth. The resolution stated that not only has the Bible been an important part of the nation’s history, but that in difficult times such as the present, there is a “national need to study and apply the teachings of the Holy Scriptures.”
Saccone, a Baptist, had also introduced a bill last year that honored the 150th anniversary of President Abraham Lincoln’s proclamation of a National Fast Day. The resolution overwhelmingly passed the Pennsylvania House 160 to 35, and was co-sponsored by over 25 representatives.
Last fall, Saccone introduced a bill that would require schools throughout the state to post the motto “In God We Trust” in some form on school campuses. Dubbed the National Motto Display Act, the legislation sought to recognize the 150th anniversary of the phrase being displayed on American currency by then-Pennsylvania Governor James Pollock. A news release from Saccone’s office outlined that the bill seeks to “promote patriotism through the display of the national motto and to educate children about an important but overlooked part of Pennsylvania’s heritage.”
“James Pollock was a towering figure in Pennsylvania history, first serving in Congress and then becoming an extraordinarily influential governor in the 19th Century,” Saccone stated. “Later, while serving as director of the United States Mint in Philadelphia, Pollock introduced the words ‘In God We Trust’ to our coins. They’ve been an important part of American culture and identity ever since.”
He also noted that Francis Scott Key used the motto in the patriotic standard “The Star Spangled Banner” in 1814. In 1956, President Dwight Eisenhower officially declared the phrase to be the official motto of the United States and ordered that it be inscribed on all American currency.
“Our youth need to hear the story of our heritage and learn from positive role models in a time of decaying values,” Saccone opined. “The story of our national motto is a positive story and one that is uniquely Pennsylvanian.”
Saccone’s original bill would have required that a plaque or other artwork bearing the motto be posted in schools throughout the Commonwealth. But last week, the Pennsylvania House voted unanimously, 196-0, to change the text of the bill to state that schools “may” post the phrase, thus eliminating the mandate. The legislation also suggests that schools display the Bill of Rights adjacent to the motto.
Even so, some groups remain in opposition to the proposal. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports that the Pennsylvania ACLU asserts that if the bill becomes law, it could create legal problems for school officials.
“It implies the state House is giving its blessing to schools to do this,” legislative director Andy Hoover told the publication. “Frankly, schools post this phrase at their own risk.”
But Saccone, who recently authored the book God in Our Government, says that the motto’s rich history can’t be denied.
“It’s a great Pennsylvania story, because it started right here in our state,” he stated. “When our country was in hard times, in turmoil, they decided to put this motto on our coins. There’s a reason for that.”