Rep Rick Saccone's "In God We Trust" Bill Most Likely Unconstitutional, Ignores Pa School Troubles

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After Tom Corbett’s election to Governor in 2012, he faced immediate criticism for his drastic budget cuts to the Pennsylvania public education system despite increasing tax revenue. Since then, Pa. schools have clamored for more funding or other legislative fixes to help struggling districts.

In October Republican Rep. Rick Saccone offered up a bill in the state legislature that did not address funding problems, but instead would require every school to display a plaque bearing the words “In God We Trust.”

The ACLU has said that the group would challenge the bill in court if it passed calling it unconstitutional. Saccone told Pittsburgh-based KDKA, “Nothing could be further from the truth. Just take a look around [the State Capitol building]. It’s full of more than 50 reference to God, the Scriptures, and the Bible. It’s everywhere.”

For struggling schools that can’t afford to purchase a plaque, the bill suggests that students make it as part of a schoolwide art project. Because “In God We Trust” is the country’s official motto since 1956, Saccone told Newsworks this is “a good history lesson, it’s a good civics lesson, just like we honor the flag every day and say the Pledge of Allegiance.”

Still many both in Pa. and nationally, like Salon writer Aaron Kase, find the proposal practically insulting. Historically laws like this never stand up to scrutiny even in conservative courts so surely it will be found unconstitutional.

Also, it does nothing to address the commonwealth’s education problems. In 2010 Pa. schools were ranked ninth in the country by Education Week’s “Quality Counts” report, the most recent report has seen Pa. fall to 18th in the country. Thus, even if Saccone’s proposal wasn’t intended to be divisive (and with an election coming up, this is most likely a feather in Saccone’s legislative cap), it completely ignores the real issues facing Pa. schools.