Oppose HB 1728: Placing “In God We Trust” in Public Schools
This Bill Promotes a Religious Rather than an Historical Message
• This bill is no more than a thinly-veiled attempt to place a religious statement of faith in public schools.• As the language of HB 1728 concedes, the words “In God We Trust” are not deeply rooted in history, but only became the official U.S. motto in 1956. 1 The Founding Fathers never intended the motto to be “In God We Trust,” but instead intended the motto to the more inclusive phrase of “E Pluribus Unum,” meaning “from many, one.” 2• HB 1728 indicates that the motto “In God We Trust” is a statement rooted in a Christian contextual history. 3• Placing the religiously-rooted motto into a public school building that contains a religiously diverse student body is divisive and exclusionary to students who either do not subscribe to a particular faith or are nonreligious, and to Pennsylvanians who believe that legislators should not promote religion.
This Bill Wastes Valuable Educational Funds
• Public school districts should spend their limited funds on educating students, not on posting symbolic plaques in public school buildings.• HB 1728 does not make clear whether the state or the school districts would pay to purchase, distribute, and hang the required display. School districts, therefore, could spend their valuable public education funds to mount displays of the motto.• HB 1728 is also problematic because it proposes holding student contests to create artwork for the motto. Such a contest not only uses valuable time and money in furtherance of the controversial motto’s placement, but it also creates the impression to students of a school-sponsored religious message.
This Bill Creates the Impression of School Sponsorship
• Even though the motto “In God We Trust” has been upheld as constitutional, it does not mean that the words’ placement in public schools would necessarily be constitutional. 4• Courts have found that students in the classroom are a “captive audience” and are therefore, “particularly vigilant in monitoring” whether religious beliefs are introduced into public schools. 5• Federal courts have found that religious texts placed on government property are not shielded from constitutional scrutiny merely because they have a historical significance. 6• Given that the motto contains a statement of faith and could be placed in the classroom where young impressionable schoolchildren are involuntarily present,7it is likely to create the impression among young children that the school endorses the religious, rather than any historical message conveyed by the motto.• The very act of placing such a motto into public schools invites lengthy and detailed litigation to ascertain the motto’s constitutionality. The legislature should not promote bills that would squander taxpayer dollars on such costly litigation.
36 U.S.C. §186 (1956); See Gaylor v. United States, 74 F.3d 214, 216 (10th Cir. 1996). 2
Paula A. Franzese, E Pluribus Unum – From Many, One: In Unity There Is Strength, 25 SETON HALL L. REV. 1460, 1460 (1995). 3
Indeed, the language of HB 1728 unabashedly details the motto’s Christian origins. Section 2 of the bill describes James Pollack as “The Great
Christian Governor” of Pennsylvania, who later became Director of the U.S. Mint and was responsible for placing the words “In God We Trust”
on U.S. coinage. 4
See Gaylor v. United States, 74 F.3d 214 (10th Cir. 1996); Aronow v. United States, 432 F.2d 242 (9th Cir. 1970). 5
Edwards v. Aguillard, 482 U.S. 578, 583-84 (1987). 6
See ACLU v. McCreary County, 145 F. Supp. 2d 845 (E.D. Ky 2001). 7
Edwards, 482 U.S. at 584.
Contact your Pennsylvania legislators to say NO to HB 1728! http://www.house.state.pa.us/