HARRISBURG, PA, January 20 — Despite the claims of bill sponsor Rep. Saccone, atheist groups in Pennsylvania strongly oppose HB 1728, the “In God We Trust” bill that seeks to force public schools to display a discriminatory and unconstitutional religious message. So do many liberal Christian (and other religious) groups because it is an encroachment on the Constitutionally-mandated separation of government and religion.
On Sunday, January 19th, 2014, CBS 21 (WHP, Harrisburg, PA) aired a program called “Face the State with Robb Hanrahan.” During this program, Rep. Saccone claimed that “the head of the Pennsylvania Atheists” (a non-existent group) came to him after his last rally offering support for his bill. However, he never identified this person by name and no atheist group leader, to our knowledge, attended that event. We ask Rep. Saccone to name this leader, as we cannot imagine an atheist group leader supporting this clearly divisive bill.
In addition, Rep. Saccone misrepresented the bill as “bipartisan” – indeed, it did pass the Education Committee, but with only two exceptions (one Democrat and one Republican), the vote was directly down party lines.
It’s absurd to claim that this bill includes language that is “inclusive.” “In God We Trust” does not represent anyone who does not worship “God.” This includes Buddhists (who do not have a god), Hindus, and many other religions. It also includes atheists, who do not worship any deity. In the program, Rep. Saccone claimed that atheists can make “God” be “whatever god that they worship in the form of maybe it’s [sic] materialism or something else in life that they look at [sic].” This shows an ignorance of atheists generally and is offensive to us specifically because of the misrepresentation of our community as “materialists” or the assumption that we would feel worship is a positive activity. None of us have a “God” to trust, thus this motto does not represent us.
Rep. Saccone knows that there is strong opposition to his bill. His presentation on the program includes gross misrepresentations of our community at the least and we feel he at least owes us an apology. Rep. Saccone should talk to the atheist and secular community to learn our positions before actually representing them to the state at large.
Pennsylvania Nonbelievers » Atheists and Secularists clarify the record and ask for an apology from Rep. Rick Saccone
By Janice Rael on January 21, 2014