A bill that would require Pennsylvania public schools to put the national motto "In God We Trust" on display was passed by a committee in the state House of Representatives on Wednesday.
The legislation, called the National Motto Display Act, passed the House Education Committee by a vote of 14 to nine on Wednesday. State Rep. Rick Saccone (R-Allegheny/Washington), who sponsored the bill, hopes that displaying the motto in schools will inspire patriotism and also help educate students on part of the state's heritage, according to a press release.
James Pollock, who was a governor of Pennsylvania in the 1850s, was appointed by President Abraham Lincoln to serve as the director of the U.S. Mint, the bill states. Although "In God We Trust" was a phrase already known from Francis Scott Key's "Star Spangled Banner," it was Pollock who pushed for the motto's appearance on U.S. currency. In 1864, Congress approved the phrase to be included on two-cent pieces.
The 84th Congress and President Dwight D. Eisenhower officially adopted the phrase as the national motto in 1956, when it was approved by the 84th Congress and signed into law by President Dwight D. Eisenhower.
"'In God We Trust' is so woven into the American fabric that it is impossible to hear the phrase without stirring feelings of pride and allegiance to our country," Saccone said in a statement earlier this month. "Our youth need to hear the story of our heritage and learn from positive role models in a time of decaying values. The story of our national motto is a positive story and one that is uniquely Pennsylvanian."
Janice Rael, vice president of the Delaware Valley chapter of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, told Fox News she is opposed to the bill, however, because she claims it promotes religion.
"The last time I checked, God was religious," Rael told the publication. "The government should be neutral, and with this legislation the government is not neutral, the government is taking a position."
But Saccone told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review that religion isn't a factor. He wants the legislation to pass, he said, to recognize the 150th anniversary of having the motto on U.S. currency in April.
"It's displaying our national motto. So they can have Harry Potter on the walls, zombies and witches on brooms but not the national motto?" Saccone told the Tribune-Review. "It would just be posted in the building somewhere so the kids know what the story is behind it. It's about teaching history."
If the bill is signed into law, Pennsylvania public schools will be given 60 days before the motto must be put on display. The bill states that schools can display the motto on a plaque, through student artwork or through some other kind of medium.