A bill that aims to display the national motto ‘In God We Trust’ in public schools throughout the Commonwealth is gaining support from republican lawmakers, but not everyone is on board. The leader of central Pennsylvania’s largest group of atheists doesn’t agree. “We see it as a violation of the separation between church and state” said Pennsylvania Nonbelievers President Brian Fields.
The co-sponsor of House Bill 1728, Representative Seth Grove, said that’s not the case. He said it’s about celebrating the motto’s creator James Pollock who was Pennsylvania’s 13th Governor and thought of the motto 150 years ago. “It’s not forcing anything upon anyone. We’re not forcing anybody to join a religion. We’re not forcing anyone to do anything. It’s just celebrating our history” said Grove.
The initial language of the bill said that public schools must display ‘In God We Trust’. It has since been amended to make it optional, but Fields thinks that distinction is problematic. “Offloading the must to the may on the schools now absolves the legislator of any responsibility if people feel the need to sue the school districts” said Fields. Representative Grove responded by saying “if people want to waste time and taxpayers dollars by initiating a lawsuit over learning about the history of our country and our state so be it. I think it’s a huge waste of time.”
Another sponsor of the bill, State Representative Rick Saccone, said he wants ‘In God We Trust’ in schools to counteract the negative effects of pop culture. He said he’s hopeful that the bill will be voted on in the first week of June.