As I speak across Pennsylvania, public support is overwhelming for my legislation to promote in public schools our national motto, “In God We Trust” — but leave it to the faith-hating faction of the Post-Gazette editorial board to publish a hit piece predictably full of vitriol but short on facts (“Wall of Separation: Religion and Government Make for an Unholy Mix,” May 17 editorial).
On April 22, Americans proudly celebrated the 150th anniversary of our national motto on our coins, put there in the midst of the Civil War, when, I am sure, detractors like the PG editorial board said we had better things to do. But Abraham Lincoln stood firm for what was right and that’s the way it has been for 150 years. No less than our beloved President John F. Kennedy reaffirmed its significance with his famous statement that “the guiding principle and prayer of this nation has been, is now and shall ever be ‘In God We Trust.’ ”
What’s more interesting is that the phrase carries a unique Pennsylvania history that dates back to our 13th governor, James Pollock, who had served as a member of Congress and had the good fortune to take a room at the same boarding house as another freshman congressman: Abraham Lincoln. They developed a long-lasting friendship. When Lincoln became president, he appointed Pollock director of the U.S. Mint. Pollock suggested the motto be stamped on all our coins. And so it has been since 1864, a memorial for all citizens to see every day.
Although not officially established as our national motto until President Dwight Eisenhower’s administration in the 1950s, “In God We Trust” was first introduced to the nation by Francis Scott Key in 1814 in the final stanza of what became our national anthem. It has since been acknowledged by the Supreme Court as inclusive of all, which is evidenced in the support I have received from all faiths. Pennsylvania’s Muslim state representative is a cosponsor of the bill, which would encourage but not require public schools to display the motto.
Although the PG is in denial of it, God is no stranger to our government. He is all over our Capitol and the first line of our Pennsylvania Constitution acknowledges how those who penned it invoked His guidance. Should we do any less today? It reflects how distant some in the media are from the public.
Of course, a minority are also offended by the pledge and the national anthem and dishonor the anthem by refusing to place their hands over their heart when it plays. But we still sing it.
As our society spirals into a moral abyss, our children thirst for positive influences and role models to inspire them. The story of our national motto both instructs and inspires. Congress noted its “spiritual and psychological” value to our country.
In Milton, James Pollock’s Pennsylvania hometown, they are building a James Pollock In God We Trust Museum. And I hope people continue to pour out their support for this unique Pennsylvania story as we celebrate this positive part of our history.
I don’t expect the faith-hating media to understand, but the people know this is exactly the correct time to acknowledge the significance of our national motto.
Rick Saccone, a Republican from Elizabeth Township, represents the 39th District in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives.