HARRISBURG — Pennsylvania public school districts would be required to post "In God We Trust" in every school building under legislation that advanced out of a committee in the state House of Representatives this week.
The bill sponsored by Rep. Rick Saccone, R-Allegheny, passed the House Education Committee on Wednesday by a 14-to-9 vote, with only one Democrat and one Republican crossing party lines.
The National Motto Display Act, as it is titled, credits James Pollock, a 19th century Pennsylvania governor, for putting the term on coins while serving as director of the U.S. Mint. The measure would require schools to post it by using a mounted plaque, student artwork or some other form.
Saccone said the motto would fit well with the state's local history curriculum and appears to be widely supported by his constituents.
"It's 500-to-1 back home, people are for it," he said Thursday, adding that he believed it also would pass the Legislature overwhelmingly.
"I'm sure the media's going to try to beat it down," he said. "That's par for the course."
Saccone is a Baptist who also sponsored a "day of prayer" resolution in the House earlier this year to make April 30 "National Fast Day." It was patterned after a similar designation by President Abraham Lincoln 150 years ago.
During the committee hearing, he said, opponents raised questions about whether the measure would withstand a court challenge and concerns that it might trivialize the motto.
"This isn't about evangelizing," Saccone said. "This is about celebrating our national motto."
"In God We Trust" became the national motto under a 1956 law signed by President Dwight Eisenhower.
Janice Rael, vice president of the Delaware Valley chapter of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, said the proposal promotes religion over the absence of religion. She opposes the proposal.
"The last time I checked, God was religious," Rael said. "The government should be neutral, and with this legislation the government is not neutral, the government is taking a position."