The Pennsylvania House passed a bill this week that gives schools permission to post the “In God We Trust” motto, if officials see fit. Here is what changed because of that: Nothing.
That’s narrowly true because the Senate hasn’t passed the bill as of yet; but it’s more broadly true as well because every individual in Pennsylvania had the right to declare their faith before this week — and every individual will retain that right going forward. Maybe a public school will post the motto, but given the ACLU’s warnings against doing that, most will probably decide against. School officials generally like to avoid needless litigation, like the rest of us.
Which means, again, that nothing of substance was accomplished. Bupkis, as they say.
So what could the Pennsylvania House have done that would’ve provided lasting value to the citizens of the state?
• Pass a real gift ban: We’ve seen this year that while legislators in Pennsylvania can take almost any gift they wish without breaking the law, it’s very difficult for them to do so while staying ethically straight. Pass a real, force-of-law gift ban, and Pennsylvania catches up with state-of-the-art governance from, oh, 1950.
• Work on the budget: The state said that revenues came in $108 million below projections in May. This is an election year: Even Gov. Tom Corbett suddenly has decided there are projects he wants to spend money on. Tom Wolf has even more items on his wish list. But something will have to give unless money starts flowing again. The legislature should be planning instead of hoping.
• Nothing. Conservatives are supposedly wiser than liberals about the limits of government. Sometimes it’s better to do nothing than to do something that amounts, politically, to praying on a street corner to advertise one’s Christian bona fides to voters.
There’s an old, satirical play on the national motto you hear every once in awhile: “In God We Trust: All Others Pay Cash.” Given the challenges facing Pennsylvania this year, even a bill promoting that motto in our schools might’ve done more good for the state. Instead, all we got was a waste of time and energy.
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