PA Lawmakers Want 'In God We Trust' In Schools

| by Nik Bonopartis
Children recite the Pledge of Allegiance.Children recite the Pledge of Allegiance.

Pennsylvania's state House passed a bill that would "encourage" public schools in the state to display the national motto, "In God We Trust," on school buildings or property.

The proposed law passed by a 179-20 margin in the House on May 2, the lower chamber of the state's bicameral legislature, according to Pittsburgh's WTAE.

To become law, the bill would need the approval of the state's Senate and a signature from Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat.

It's the second time legislators have attempted to pass this type of law in Pennsylvania, with a similar measure passing in the lower chamber but ultimately dying on the floor of the state Senate in 2014-2015, PennLive reports.

Republican State Rep. Rick Saccone, the bill's co-sponsor, said the goal is to unify the state with the national motto.

"Our hope and our aspirations are held within that motto," Saccone said in a video posted on his website, according to WTAE. "So, it benefits us to have our children to look up and see that national motto on a wall in our schools."

Critics don't see the potential law as a unifier; according to them, it's a superfluous piece of legislation since it's already legal to display the national motto on public property, PennLive notes.

Although "In God We Trust" has inspired lawsuits from church and state groups and has been the subject of controversy, the U.S. Supreme Court has upheld the constitutionality of displaying the motto as recently as 2011, WTAE reports.

Additionally, both the U.S. House and Senate have passed resolutions reaffirming the national motto, which was adopted in 1956 and approved by President Dwight Eisenhower, who was also responsible for the push to use the phrase on American currency.

Critics have said the bill is designed to earn state representatives brownie points with constituents, adding that lawmakers have much more important issues to tackle than crafting legislation that simply reaffirms laws that are already on the books.

Democratic State Rep. Greg Vitali called the bill "very Seinfeldesque," saying the bill is essentially about nothing because it doesn't compel school districts to do anything, according to PennLive.

"But Vitali missed a key difference: Seinfeld was often funny," the newspaper's editorial team wrote in an op-ed critical of the legislation on May 4. "There's nothing remotely amusing about a pointless piece of legislation that wastes both the General Assembly and taxpayers' time and resources. There's a budget to finish and a pension system to fix."

That hasn't stopped lawmakers from supporting the bill. State Rep. Cris Dush, a Republican, said having physical displays of the motto in public schools would inspire introspection.

The bill, he said, is meant to "display things that will cause our students to reflect on why this language is so important."

Sources: WTAE, PennLive (2) / Photo Credit: Pew Research

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