State lawmakers soften proposal on posting 'In God We Trust' in school buildings
HARRISBURG — Pennsylvania lawmakers softened a proposal on Wednesday about posting “In God We Trust” in school buildings to make it optional and to add the Bill of Rights to the measure.
The House voted narrowly to reject a proposal to have the state cover legal costs if lawsuits result, and, by a wider margin, defeated an amendment that would have put the question before local voters in a referendum.
The National Motto Display Act attributes the national motto to a 19th-century Pennsylvania governor, though it was not formally adopted until President Dwight Eisenhower signed it into law nearly 60 years ago.
The House amendments — which made it apply to cyber schools and directed the secretary of Education to notify districts — cleared the way for a final chamber vote, perhaps as early as next month. If it passes, it will go to the state Senate.
“The change from a mandate to a suggestion is a good thing,” said Andy Hoover, legislative director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania. “But schools post this phrase at their own risk. A blessing from the state House doesn't make a display of the phrase constitutional. That's for a court to decide.”
Rep. Mike Carroll, D-Luzerne, said school districts needed protection against potential litigation.
“The reality is that this mandate will come with a price tag, and our districts will be on the hook,” Carroll argued.
But Rep. Paul Clymer, R-Bucks, said there are lawyers who would defend the law for free. He added that indemnifying districts would set a bad precedent.
“I would hope that the fact that we're talking about our national motto, In God We Trust, that people should understand that this is something we should be proud of,” Clymer said.
Covering districts' legal bills was voted down, 99-97, but adding the Bill of Rights passed unanimously.
“In the American experience, as we as a people moved from subjects of the crown to free men, there is no more sacred doctrine than that that establishes our rights as free men,” said the amendment's sponsor, Rep. Mike O'Brien, D-Philadelphia. “Simply put, it should be prominently and proudly displayed alongside the national motto.”
Rep. Steve McCarter, D-Montgomery, said local residents should be able to decide whether they want to display the motto and Bill of Rights.
“Our public schools should not be a place for motto branding of any sort, let alone motto branding that carries a religious message,” said McCarter, who formerly taught history in public schools.
Clymer said McCarter's amendment wasn't properly drafted because it would be a county referendum, not a local referendum, and argued elected school boards would be able to make the decision. It was voted down, 135-61.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Donora-Webster bridge plunges into Mon River after 107 years
- State cites Greene County mine after fatality, checking ventilation doors
- New trial sought in 1977 Washington County murder case
- Jailed Philadelphia priest could get papal visit
- ‘We are’ chant now a permanent fixture on Penn State campus
- 2 from Western Pennsylvania charged with insurance fraud
- Pa. could ease restrictions on fireworks, reaping big bang in taxes
- Presque Isle Downs cancels thoroughbred races because of running deer