Apparently, the Pennsylvania Senate does not regularly read this blog. It is a shame because they are now pushing through House Bill 1640, which passed the PA House earlier this year. The sole purpose of HB 1640 is to provide
for the display of the national motto “In God We Trust” in classrooms and other areas in public school buildings.
The bill was introduced by Rick Saccone (R-Jefferson Hills) and others late last year. It is both a bad bill and a misleading bill. For example, HB 1640 states:
On April 22, 2014, we celebrated the 150th anniversary of our national motto “In God We Trust” on our coins. Although this phrase was not officially established as our national motto until a law was passed by the 84th Congress and approved by President Eisenhower.
It cannot be 150th anniversary, if our National Motto was only adopted as such in 1956! Perhaps, before going into the schools, the authors need to review basic arithmetic first: 2014-1956=?. The bill goes on to say:
It was a Pennsylvanian, however, that installed those words on our coins. … James Pollock from Milton, Pennsylvania, became our 13th governor serving from 1855 to 1858. He was known as “The Great Christian Governor.”
To include this as justification, points to the authors’ very clear goal of promoting not just any god, but the Christian god.
To increase student understanding of and familiarity with American historical documents, historically important excerpts from or copies of the documents should be prominently displayed in public school buildings.
This is perfectly legal now, so the resolution is completely unnecessary. Furthermore, the statements listed above such that the posting is more likely to reduce the understanding of American historical documents and may even lead to bullying of atheist students.
There are other problems with the bill. In 1797, the United States Senate ratified a treaty with Tripoli that began Article 11 with the statement: “As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion”. If the goal is to “increase students understanding of American historical documents”, why is this phrase not included in the bill to be posted prominently in public school buildings, perhaps with the Article 6 of the Constitution which states “no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.”
In fact, the phrase “In God We Trust” has been declared to be devoid of content, when Justice Brennan wrote in Lynch v. Donnelly 1984 that the motto is virtually meaningless:
“In God We Trust as our national motto … can best be understood … as a form a ‘ceremonial deism,’ protected from Establishment Clause scrutiny chiefly because they have lost through rote repetition any significant religious content.”
That is to say that it has become a meaningless phrase – an American political version of “God Save The Queen” or a “Hail Mary” pass in football.
Unfortunately, the PA Senate Education Committee took it as a serious proposal and voted to pass it on to the full Senate today. The vote was 9-1-1 with the only dissents from Daylin Leach (D) from King of Prussia who did not vote and Anthony Williams (D) from Philadelphia who vote ‘No’.
The bill now goes to the full Senate, where it will most likely pass, as yet another empty measure that will divide the believers (particularly Christian) from the non-believers. ‘In God We Trust’ promotes the idea that ancient wisdom holds answers to today’s problems. As The Militant One forcedly wrote earlier this week with regard to religion and the Orlando shooting:
[In] today’s modern world, with the knowledge we have of how the world works and the vast compendium of philosophical writings available to us, there is no reason to give credence or even respect to any of this nonsense. It is garbage that needs relegated to the dustbin of history.
Likewise, to promote “In God We Trust” is giving power to the uniformed and ignoring the past 2000 years of scientific history that should be the bedrock on education in the Commonwealth.
Urge your Senator to vote “NO” on HB 1640 when it comes to a floor vote in the coming days. If it passes, it will no doubt result in a lawsuit that will continue to take resources away from real education.