Pennsylvania public school districts would be required to post “In God We Trust” in every school building under legislation that advanced out of a committee in the state House of Representatives this week.Ok, we need to stop here for a second or two. Remember Rick Saccone? He's this guy - the Bible-loving, Sharia-hating, torture-excusing Rick Saccone.
The bill sponsored by Rep. Rick Saccone...
Here's the bill, by the way.
And, although I am not a lawyer, I have to guess that it's probably unconstitutional. And here's why.
We'll start with the Pennsylvania Constitution. Section 3 states:
All men have a natural and indefeasible right to worship Almighty God according to the dictates of their own consciences; no man can of right be compelled to attend, erect or support any place of worship or to maintain any ministry against his consent; no human authority can, in any case whatever, control or interfere with the rights of conscience, and no preference shall ever be given by law to any religious establishments or modes of worship.Take a look at that last phrase. By slapping the motto on the walls of every public school that's exactly what the outcome. While the bill does state that:
The Federal 5th, 9th and 10th Circuit Courts have ruled that displaying the national motto passes constitutional muster so long as the purpose of the display is to advance or endorse the national motto rather than a particular religious belief or practice.Do we really think that Pennsylvania's "Year of the Bible" legislator wants "In God We Trust" posted in every public school as anything other than an endorsement of a set of religious beliefs?
For that we have Torcaso v Watkins (1961) a Supreme Court decision from a little more than a half century ago that included this handy paragraph:
We repeat and again reaffirm that neither a State nor the Federal Government can constitutionally force a person "to profess a belief or disbelief in any religion." Neither can constitutionally pass laws or impose requirements which aid all religions as against non-believers, and neither can aid those religions based on a belief in the existence of God as against those religions founded on different beliefs.And Lee v Weisman (1992):
In religious debate or expression, the government is not a prime participant, for the Framers deemed religious establishment antithetical to the freedom of all. The Free Exercise Clause embraces a freedom of conscience and worship that has close parallels in the speech provisions of the First Amendment, but the Establishment Clause is a specific prohibition on forms of state intervention in religious affairs, with no precise counterpart in the speech provisions. The explanation lies in the lesson of history that was and is the inspiration for the Establishment Clause, the lesson that, in the hands of government, what might begin as a tolerant expression of religious views may end in a policy to indoctrinate and coerce. A state-created orthodoxy puts at grave risk that freedom of belief and conscience which are the sole assurance that religious faith is real, not imposed.What else could it be than a "state-created orthodoxy" in a public school when a sign that reads "In God We Trust" for all the students to read and to digest?
The lessons of the First Amendment are as urgent in the modern world as in the 18th century, when it was written. One timeless lesson is that, if citizens are subjected to state-sponsored religious exercises, the State disavows its own duty to guard and respect that sphere of inviolable conscience and belief which is the mark of a free people.[Emphasis added.]
And who, in fact, are the "we" in this anyway?