On Tuesday night, the Waynesboro Area School Board voted on a motion to accept a gift of several plaques that say “In God We Trust,” and put them up in the lobbies of six district public schools.
Local businessman Tom McCloud officially offered the plaques as donations to the county’s public schools back in March.
Several supporters of the national motto spoke up at Tuesday’s school board meeting, in favor of installing the plaques.
“It’s such a positive story, it’s such a uniting force,” said Pennsylvania State Representative Rick Saccone (R-Allegheny and Washington). “Our kids need that…sorely need that today.”
Not everyone agrees, however – atheist groups in Pennsylvania have already come out against it. While most who spoke at the school board meeting support the plaques, one Navy veteran, who called himself a “proud Christian,” took the podium to oppose the plaques.
“Many members of the community – Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, atheist – all pay taxes and support,” said John Bryan, a resident of the Waynesboro area. “They might not wish their child to see that in the school, and I believe the proper place for it is in church or in the home.”
Meanwhile, Rep. Saccone said the plaques have every right to hang from a public school wall, after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the motto doesn’t violate the separation of church and state.
“Our society now, for 50 years, has been telling people that we have to sanitize our public life from God,” he said. “It’s absolutely not true.”
On the other hand, critics said “In God We Trust” only gained popularity during the Cold War era. The words became the national motto in 1956, during the “Red Scare” toward Soviet Russia and communism.
“There is absolutely no mention of God in our founding documents, and there is a reason for that,” Bryan added. “E pluribus unum – out of many people, out of many cultures, out of many religions – we come together as one people.”
Either way, this fight will continue for another day. The school board voted 5-4 against placing the plaques in the lobbies of district schools. However, they voted unanimously to wait on deciding whether to accept the plaques at all, and tabled it for further discussion in future meetings.