A Pa. House Committee is voting on an ‘In God We Trust’ bill. Because, of course | Monday Morning Coffee

September 23, 2019 7:15 am

Good Monday Morning, Fellow Seekers.

Just about a week ago, our new pals at the investigative journalism site Spotlight PA made a bit of a splash by reporting that the Pennsylvania General Assembly, one of the nation’s largest and best paid, didn’t do much in the way of actual law-making anymore.

In the midst of that thorough and well-reported story, House Democratic Whip Jordan Harris, D-Philadephia, suggested that lawmakers were putting quality over quantity by “trying to be more deliberate about which bills they introduce.”

So, from our “Hold My Beer” file, we bring you state Rep. Cris Dush, R-Jefferson, who has not only located a solution in search of problem, but has also cannily tracked it to its lair and throttled the life out of it. He’s sponsoring legislation that would allow local school districts to plaster “In God We Trust” in classrooms and other parts of school buildings.

The reason, according to Dush, is to pay homage to the “rich history” of the slogan, which had far less to do with protecting the nation’s moral fiber than it did with countering the Red Menace.

Under the terms of this latest grenade in the culture wars, school districts could display the motto in “the form of mounted plaques or artwork from a student contest that will be prominently displayed in each school building,” he wrote in a memo seeking co-sponsors for his proposal.

If Dush were merely shouting at the clouds for the first time, that would be one thing. But, as his co-sponsorship memo makes clear, it’s his second try at introducing the legislation. And it comes amid a broader national push to squeeze religion into the schoolhouse. There’s even model legislation to help lawmakers on their way, as Forbes reported in September 2018.

And, alas, the House State Government Committee, in what can only be described as a Metcalfian display of ham-handedness, has the bill on its agenda for its 9 a.m. session on Tuesday morning, according to a schedule provided by Majority Leader Bryan Cutler’s office.

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More astute readers may recall that, back in August, Dush floated a seemingly innocuous proposal that would have mandated the posting of the preamble to the Pennsylvania Constitution “in the entrance of every school building where state funding is provided to the district or institution of higher education.”

That part of the Commonwealth’s foundational document reads thusly: ““WE, the people of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, grateful to Almighty God for the blessings of civil and religious liberty, and humbly invoking His guidance, do ordain and establish this Constitution.”

As we noted at the time, it’s not “In God We Trust.” It’s more like, “Thanks for all the politics and whatnot, God.”

It was, it struck us, at the time, a pretty canny end-run around all those pesky Establishment Clause restrictions.

With this bill before the House State Government Committee on Tuesday, Dush has dropped the pretense entirely and has made an explicit play to get some of that old time religion — masquerading as a civics lesson — into the schoolhouse.

If they are, indeed, as busy as they claim to be, lawmakers need to leave this one on the cutting room floor.

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Our Stuff.
Sarah Anne Hughes
 leads our coverage this morning, highlighting the fact that this week is “Diaper Need Awareness Week” in Pennsylvania. And, for too many Pennsylvania families, this staple of childrearing is a luxury instead of a necessity

Our partners at the Philadelphia Tribune have this must-read story on how Philly leads large cities in property tax breaks.

On our Commentary Page, opinion regular Dick Polman says Elizabeth Warren may have found her winning issue with her plan to fix Social Security. And a Vanderbilt University scholar offers his plan for healing America’s partisan divide.

marijuanaThe Inquirer takes a look at the hemp boom, with both Amish and ‘English’ seeing profits in the crop.
A columnist for Pittsburgh City Paper argues the Steel City needs more sober-friendly sites for merrymaking.
LG John Fetterman is hoping to move past this summer’s well-publicized clash on the Senate floors. But Republican leaders in the chamber aren’t quite ready to let bygones be bygones, PennLive reports.
The special election to replace former Sen. Mike Folmer, R-Lebanon, who resigned last week, is going to cost the taxpayers at least $40,000, the Morning Call reports.

Here’s your #Harrisburg Instagram of the Day:

A historic Underground Railroad site in Philadelphia that played a role in the freedom of 9,000 slaves is being repaired — despite inaction by the actual property owner, BillyPenn reports.
With Three Mile Island closed, nuclear energy advocates are looking to the health of other power plants, WITF-FM reports.
Is it legal to use bonds to pay for new voting machines? The PA Post takes up the question. looks at how one school district is tackling teen vaping.
Impeachment may be the only remedy if those Ukraine allegations turn out to be true, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff says (via Talking Points Memo).
The Senate is set to pass a stop-gap spending bill, while the House is set to focus on homeland security and immigration, Roll Call reports.

What Goes On.
The House and Senate are both back in session this week. Both chambers are set to convene at 1 p.m.
12:30 p.m., East Rotunda: Dyslexia Awareness Month event
2 p.m., East Rotunda: Nittany Fit program kick off

What Goes On (Nakedly Political Edition).
8 a.m.: 
Breakfast for Rep. Daryl Metcalfe
11 a.m.:
 Luncheon for Rep. Tom Caltagirone
5:30 p.m.: 
Reception for Rep. Margo Davidson
Ride the circuit, and give at the max, and you’re out a mere $5,000 today.

You Say It’s Your Birthday Dept.
Best wishes go out this morning to our former PennLive colleague — and ace shooter — Joe Hermitt, who celebrates this morning. Congrats, and enjoy the day, sir.

Heavy Rotation.
Here’s a new discovery from over the weekend. It’s BritPop newbies Working Men’s Club and ‘Teeth.’

Monday’s Gratuitous Soccer Link.
Despite being down to 10 men, Arsenal still managed to pull off a 3-2 win over Aston Villa over the weekend. Makes us glad the match wasn’t easily accessible on television. We probably would have been throwing stuff at the screen.

And now you’re up to date.

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John L. Micek

A three-decade veteran of the news business, John L. Micek is the Pennsylvania Capital-Star's former Editor-in-Chief.