Proposed Pennsylvania legislation, titled “The National Motto Display Act,” would require public schools in the state to display “In God We Trust” in all classrooms.
The legislation states that the motto “is part of the history and heritage of the United States” and credits James Pollock, Pennsylvania’s 13th governor – “known as ‘The Great Christian Governor'” according to the bill – with the initial idea for the phrase to appear on U.S. currency.
The Associated Press reported that the bill – sponsored by Republican state Rep. Rick Saccone – was approved by the Pennsylvania House Education Committee on Oct. 23.
The bill cites federal circuit court cases that “ruled that displaying the national motto passes constitutional muster so long as the purpose of the display is to advance or endorse the national motto rather than a particular religious belief or practice.”
In a statement to AP, Saccone stated, “This isn’t about evangelizing. This is about celebrating our national motto.”
A press release on his website noted that the bill’s purpose is to “educate students on ‘In God We Trust’ origins.”
In an Oct. 17 report by the Standard Journal of Milton, Pa., Saccone is quoted as saying, “The people have been lied to for several decades now about our Godly heritage. They have been told God is not part of our government. People have grown up not knowing the truth about our Godly heritage.”
A video available on Saccone’s YouTube channel begins with the statement: “On April 22, 2014, we will celebrate the 150th anniversary of our national motto,” though he quickly notes that this was not the official motto until the Eisenhower administration.
The anniversary date, Saccone goes on to clarify, is based on an act of Congress passed on April 22, 1864, which authorized the minting of coins with the phrase “In God We Trust.” A more detailed history of this phrase is available on the U.S. Treasury’s website.
“No matter what god you serve, or even if you serve no god at all, ‘In God We Trust’ is still our national motto,” Saccone states in the video. “Our country sorely needs a return to traditional values and a reminder of the things that have made our country a nation like no other.”
According to the AP report, opposition to the proposal has come from the Delaware chapter of Americans United (AU) for the Separation of Church and State. Despite AU’s opposition, Saccone told AP, “It’s 500-to-1 back home, people are for it.”
Saccone sponsored a “Day of Prayer” bill earlier this year, which was reported on his website.
AP noted that Saccone is a Baptist, though no information about his denominational affiliation is provided on his website bio.