Pick an issue that has you, as a Pennsylvania resident, vexed.
Whatever it is, you can lay a safe bet that your legislators on the education committee in the state House of Representatives were not working on it last Thursday. Instead, they were busy passing a measure to require Pennsylvania public school districts to post “In God We Trust” in every school building. Yes, the bill sponsored by Allegheny County Rep. Rick Saccone assumes that everyone in Pennsylvania believes in a deity — or if they don’t, insists they ought to. So much for the separation of church and state.
So much, too, for truly important education issues, the looming public school employee pension crisis foremost among them (a $26 billion issue). Or for school property tax reform. Or teacher credentials, or Adequate Yearly Progress, or No Child Left Behind or any other issue that Pennsylvania parents, students and taxpayers care about. Instead, Saccone and all but one fellow Republican, along with just one of the Democrats on the committee, voted to pass the so-called “National Motto Display Act.”
Supporters of this misguided bill should go back to school. They should study the letters and documents of our commonwealth’s founder, William Penn, a Quaker who was imprisoned in the Tower of London for writing a tract that attacked the trinity. Penn’s personal experience of religious persecution helped guide his decision to come to the New World. Even before he left England, Penn wrote a “Frame of Government” for a colony that would eventually be named Pennsylvania, where freedom of worship would be absolute.
Of course supporters of the bill should also take a refresher course in the U.S. Constitution, with special attention to the First Amendment in the Bill of Rights — the one that guarantees freedom of religion to all citizens.
Probably some people in power will always want to shove their particular brand of religion down other people’s throats. But what a shame that the majority on the House education committee are more willing to risk costly litigation over religion in government-run buildings than to work together on bills that will make a real difference to our children, families and taxpayers.
What a betrayal of a fundamental principle of freedom of religion. What a waste of time. What a colossal waste of taxpayers’ dollars.