Allegheny County's Fitzgerald tells council he’ll veto ‘In God We Trust’ motion
September 9, 2014 12:00 AM
Allegheny County Councilwoman Sue Means. R-Bethel Park, wants the county to post the motto “In God We Trust” in the courthouse. “It’s our national motto,” she said. “It’s patriotism. It’s history.”
Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald told County Council members Monday that he would exercise his veto power if the board passed legislation to post the motto “In God We Trust” in the courthouse.
By Kaitlynn Riely / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald would exercise his veto power if County Council passed legislation to post the motto “In God We Trust” in the courthouse, Mr. Fitzgerald told council members Monday.
Councilwoman Sue Means, a Bethel Park Republican, has driven the push for the national motto to be displayed in the Gold Room of the courthouse, where council conducts its twice-monthly meetings. Ms. Means, who says she is an evangelical Christian, wants to see “In God We Trust” installed above a replica of the Bill of Rights.
“It’s our national motto,” she said. “It’s patriotism. It’s history.”
Councilman Ed Kress, a cosponsor on the bill and a Shaler Republican, last month proposed an amendment that would limit the plaque to three square feet and would include the phrase “e pluribus unum” and the Pennsylvania motto, “Virtue, liberty and independence.”
His amended bill was voted out of committee with an affirmative recommendation and is on the agenda for council’s full meeting tonight.
Mr. Kress said he plans to vote for the legislation, which includes council members Charles Martoni, D-Swissvale; John Palmiere, D-Baldwin; Heather Heidelbaugh, R-Mt. Lebanon; and Tom Baker, R-Ross, as sponsors.
“All we are doing is honoring our state motto and our national motto,” he said.
Ms. Means said she believes her proposal will pass and will have at least the 10 votes necessary to withstand a veto.
Mr. Fitzgerald urged council members to vote no, writing in an email that although the region has experienced growth and increased vibrancy in recent years, diversity is an area in which improvement is still needed.
“Support and passage of [the proposed legislation] tells our residents and visitors that if they are Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist, Athiest, Muslim, Islamic or any other non-theistic group, they are not welcomed here,” he wrote in an email to council members. “We are disrespecting other religions and beliefs by promoting one above all others. If this legislation were to pass, we are telling everyone that our motto is that not all are welcome here.”
Council President John DeFazio, D-Shaler, said Monday he did not know if the legislation would pass.
Mr. Fitzgerald, in his email, also expressed concern about legal action against the county stemming from the decision to place the motto in a prominent spot in the courthouse. Ms. Means said she has letters from two legal organizations promising to defend county officials pro bono if a challenge is raised.
Council will meet at 5 p.m. today. Ten people had signed up to speak on the issue as of about 3:45 p.m. Monday.
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