In a gathering that was part rally, part history lesson and part faith revival, State Rep. Rick Saccone, R-Allegheny/Washington — joined by a litany of religious and issue supporters — on Wednesday called on the State General Assembly to adopt House Bill 1728, which would require the motto “In God We Trust” to appear in every public school throughout the state.
Saccone’s bill was laid on the table in October.
Healing Tree International Co-Executive Director Abby Abildness emceed the event and was the first to speak in support of HB 1728, connecting the history of the motto that that of Pennsylvania’s role in the Civil War.
“’In God We Trust’ became our battle cry in Antietam during the Civil War; it was a unifying battle cry,” Abildness said. “When James Pollock was appointed to the U.S. Mint, Pollock was responsible for stamping that motto on our coins and currency. This is our heritage from Pennsylvania, and our children and grandchildren need to see and remember their heritage that united a nation.
“This bill is a vital key to Pennsylvania becoming the holy seed that William Penn planted,” Abildness continued, adding that the education committee had already passed HB 1728. “As our nation faces challenging times, it was only appropriate for members of Congress to reaffirm the motto. Their action allows our nation to continue honoring god as the source for human dignity and worth.”
James Pollock, born on Sept. 11, 1810 in Milton, Northumberland County, was a member of the Whig and Republican Party, and also served as Pennsylvania Governor from 1855-1858. According to the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, It was at the suggestion of Pollock that the motto “In God We Trust” is stamped on coins of the United States.
Voices to Preserve American Spokesman the Rev. Matthew Cummings, representing regional Black church leaders, praised HB 1728 for what the bill proposes to accomplish and for the message it conveys to the outside world.
“The eyes of the nation are upon you today. ‘In God We Trust’ is the necessity right now for a healing of the races, it’s a necessity to begin the healing of all faiths, and it’s a necessity right now for all political persuasions to come together,” Cummings said. “As Pennsylvania goes, thus goes the nation.
“God wants to heal this nation. This motto [legislation] begins the process.”
When it was Saccone’s time to speak, the veteran representative took the podium by storm, unleashing the righteous fury usually reserved for Sunday pulpit dwellers. Saccone, who lashed out at the “faith-hating media” for failing to understand the purpose of HB 1728, said all he wanted to do was “display the motto,” while singling out opponents for their alleged hypocrisy.
There are those against it, like the faith-hating media…that come up with the disingenuous argument that having the motto in the schools is somehow proselytizing. Is it proselytizing [for the motto] to appear on coins and currency for the last 150 years?” Saccone said. “We are celebrating 150 years of the motto. Others are grasping at straws saying doing this is unimportant … it’s very important we present many positive role models and influences to young people. We have witches on brooms, Harry Potter and zombies in our schools, and that doesn’t cause trauma to our kids, but [opponents argue] putting the national motto in schools will traumatize kids.
“The public really wants this,” Saccone continued, noting the motto has constitutional protection and that it even appears chiseled in columns in the capitol. “The motto teaches respect for a higher power than one’s self. Our motto is a message to our children, America, and this motto encapsulates this country’s prosperity and greatness.”
Saccone, in a memo to colleagues, wrote more about HB 1728’s historical context.
“The motto “In God We Trust” is part of the history and heritage of the United States. On April 22, 2014, we will celebrate the 150th anniversary of our national motto “In God We Trust” on our coins.
While this phrase was first introduced to the nation by Francis Scott Key in 1814 in the words of our national anthem, it was a Pennsylvanian, James Pollock, the 13th Governor of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, who was responsible for suggesting the installation of these words on our coins during his term as Director of the United States Mint. In April of 1864, Congress first approved the use of the motto on United States two-cent pieces, and since then, the motto has been inscribed on most denominations of coins in an uninterrupted period of time extending from the present back to 1916,” read, in part, Saccone’s memo. “In 1956, the United States Congress adopted the motto “In God We Trust” as the national motto. Since 1957, the United States Bureau of Engraving and Printing has gradually incorporated the motto in the design on the reverse of all paper currency.
“With this rich history in mind, my legislation will require every school district to display the motto in each school building,” Saccone continued in his memo. “The display of our nation’s motto may take the form of mounted plaques or artwork from a student contest that will be prominently displayed in each school building.”
Contact staff writer Damon C. Williams at (215) 893-5745 or email@example.com.