Thursday, July 03, 2014

Fwd: Separation of Church & State, Being Threatened Here in Allegheny Count y

-------- Forwarded message ----------
From: A. N. Glickman <>

Subject: Separation of Church & State, Being Threatened Here in Allegheny County

Dear Colleagues, Friends, and Relatives who live in Allegheny County,
Some of you heard from me the other day on this matter, others not yet.
I am asking all of you  (a) to find it within you to agree with me, and  (b) to speak out on this matter now!
Allegheny County Council on July 1st took on a resolution (and sent it to the Governmental Reform Committee):
Bill 8376-14
A Resolution of the County of Allegheny, Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, supporting the display of the National Motto, "In God We Trust" to be displayed above a replication of the Bill of Rights and to be hung in a prominent location in the Gold Room of the Allegheny County Courthouse.
Sponsors: Council Member Means, Council Member Martoni, Council Member Palmiere, Council Member Kress and Council Member Heidelbaugh
I am ardently opposed to this resolution, for numerous reasons, all of which boil down to separation of church and state, elimination of prejudice and bullying, and fiscal prudence.  I spoke in Public Comment at this past Tuesday's meeting, and am planning to speak again at next Tuesday's meeting.  (After that the Council is in recess for six weeks, so we do not know when they will act upon this.)
Please join me in speaking against this!  You will find more information and talking points below.
One must register to speak more than 24 hours before a meeting, which would be by 5:00 p.m. Monday.  To register on line, go to .  (You must register to speak at the end of the meeting.)  There are also provisions for County citizens to submit written testimony, which also has rules.    
Additionally, here is a set of email addresses for copying the Councilpersons on your testimony:
The Supreme Court has ruled that corporations have religions, and that religious zealots must be able to get into the faces of folks over whom they feel morally superior.  It all begins when we give tacit approval to bring G-d into our public buildings and proceedings.  
I'll add more information below, and a copy of what I said to the Council on Tuesday.  Again, please plan to speak, or at least submit testimony. 
Thank you for joining me.  Please spread the word.
- Audrey N. Glickman
Some Notes on "In G-d We Trust" and the County's Legislation.
Following are some notes, items, and talking points regarding dissuading the County Council from establishing a County religion.  And they intend to post it above the Bill of Rights!
Here is the full bill, and following are several "Items," points and notes from which to derive talking points.
Bill 8376-14
A Resolution of the County of Allegheny, Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, supporting the display of the National Motto, "In God We Trust" to be displayed above a replication of the Bill of Rights and to be hung in a prominent location in the Gold Room of the Allegheny County Courthouse.
Sponsors: Council Member Means, Council Member Martoni, Council Member Palmiere, Council Member Kress and Council Member Heidelbaugh
A Resolution of the County of Allegheny, Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, supporting the display of the National Motto, "In God We Trust" to be displayed above a replication of the Bill of Rights and to be hung in a prominent location in the Gold Room of the Allegheny County Courthouse.
WHEREAS, April 2014 marked the  150th anniversary of our national motto "In God We Trust" on our coins which was first introduced to the nation by Francis Scott Key in 1814 as words to be included in our national anthem; and
WHEREAS, IN GOD WE TRUST became the United States national motto on July 30, 1956, shortly after our nation led the world through the trauma of World War II; and
WHEREAS, the words have been used on U.S. currency since 1864 having been placed there by a native Pennsylvanian, James Pollock who served as the 13th Governor of Pennsylvania and was appointed as the Director of the U.S. Mint by Abraham Lincoln; and
WHEREAS, the same inspiring slogan is engraved above the entrance to the United States Senate Chamber as well as above the Speaker's dais in the U.S. House of Representatives; and
WHEREAS, in both war and peace, these words have been a profound source of strength and guidance to many generations of Americans serving as part of the history and heritage of the United States; and
 WHEREAS, On July 24, 2000, the United States House of Representatives, along with the concurrence of the Senate, unanimously resolved to encourage the display of the national motto of the United States in public buildings throughout the nation; and
WHEREAS, the General Assembly enacted House Bill 1728 of 2013 which is known as the National Motto Display Act which attempts to increase understanding of and familiarity with American historical documents and requests that important excerpts of the documents be prominently displayed in public buildings; and
WHEREAS, the national motto originated in Pennsylvania and is a true PA history story; and
WHEREAS, in following the recommendation of the Commonwealth, the County desires to display this patriotic motto in the Council Chambers of the Gold Room as a way to solemnize public occasions and celebrate our history as a state and nation;
The Council of the County of Allegheny hereby resolves as follows:
SECTION 1.            
Council determines that the historic and patriotic words of our national motto, "In God We Trust," shall be permanently and prominently displayed above a replication of the Bill of Rights in the Gold Room of the County Courthouse of Allegheny.
SECTION 2.  Severability.  If any provision of this Ordinance shall be determined to be unlawful, invalid, void or unenforceable, then that provision shall be considered severable from the remaining provisions of this Ordinance which shall be in full force and effect.
SECTION 3.        Repealer.  Any Resolution or Ordinance or part thereof conflicting with the provisions of this Ordinance is hereby repealed so far as the same affects this Ordinance.
Item 1. Recent State Bill.
The State earlier this year passed its legislation advocating placing "In G-d We Trust" on public buildings, including public schools. Before passage, the bill was amended to "authorize" schools to post it, rather than to mandate them doing so, and included charter schools in the mix.
The legislation was brought by Representative Rick Saccone, Republican, from Allegheny County.
Item 2. Saccone's History Claim is Repeated in the Recital Clauses of this Bill.
Saccone claims the reason for bringing it forth is that the phrase is "closely" connected to Pennsylvania history. That is flimsy at best. The actual history is that President Lincoln in 1861 appointed reported religious zealot and NRA member James W. Pollock (also former Governor of Pennsylvania, from Northumberland County, raised a Presbyterian) as Director of the Mint. As near as I can discern, in November of that same year, Rev. Mark Richard Watkinson, a pastor in a Baptist church in Delaware County, Pennsylvania, wrote a letter to the Secretary of the Treasury Salmon P. Chase, noting that we didn't have a deity on our coins. Rev. Watkinson wrote, "One fact touching our currency has hitherto been seriously overlooked. I mean the recognition of the Almighty God on some form of our coins. What if our republic were now shattered beyond reconstruction? Would not the antiquaries of succeeding centuries rightly reason from our past that we were a heathen nation?"
So Salmon Chase, who had been raised by his uncle Philader Chase, an Episcopalian religious leader (and was from Cornish, New Hampshire, not Pennsylvania), thought this a good idea, wrote the slogan (or stole it from the fourth stanza of the "Star Spangled Banner," history is not clear, as his first draft was "In G-d is our trust"), and put the idea to James Pollock to make it happen.
The slogan was placed on 2-cent coins in April 1864 while the Civil War was turning everyone religious. (The founding of Tree of Life Congregation in Pittsburgh happened in the same year.)
So the Pennsylvania connection is quite tenuous.
Item 3. Further History.
The Coinage Act of 1864 did not specify the wording to be placed on the coins, and this fact opened the door to further shenanigans – the Secretary of the Treasury, under the advice of the Director of the Mint, could change the wording at any time. In 1901, Theodore Roosevelt became President, and also was a great admirer of the sculptor Saint-Gaudens. So Roosevelt got his Treasury Secretary to commission Saint-Gaudens to do some new coin designs. The sculptor didn't like using "In G-d We Trust" reportedly for aesthetic reasons, and when that came to light it was fortuitous because Teddy Roosevelt didn't like using it either, for religious reasons. Roosevelt reportedly thought that having the motto on common coins that were abused in all sorts of manners was close to sacrilege. [This from the Rochester Chapter of the Americans United for the Separation of Church and State.]
According to the NY Times, , Roosevelt wrote within his letter:
My own feeling in the matter is due to my very firm conviction that to put such a motto on coins, or to use it in any kindred manner, not only does no good, but does positive harm, and is in effect irreverence, which comes dangerously close to sacrilege. A beautiful and solemn sentence such as the one in question should be treated and uttered only with that fine reverence which necessarily implies a certain exaltation of spirit.
Public outcry from the religious quarters was fierce!* So Roosevelt caved, telling the Congress that he would not veto a bill placing the motto on our money. Therefore on May 18, 1908, Congress did indeed pass a mandate for the motto to appear on all of our money.
Talk about a backlash in the wrong direction!
*Small footnote – Roosevelt did seem to think the solemnity for using it on courthouses was appropriate. He found money the most crass. So we cannot say whether he would have objected to the current proposition.
Item 4. Why?
What is the purpose of passing this legislation? What is the purpose of posting this motto? Does it serve the public good to spend the public's money in this manner? Even thinking broadly, does it do no harm?
I certainly find harm in it. I find it to be a form of bullying – the only possible G-d that could be implied is a Christian G-d. Other religions use other terms to name their G-d, and Jews don't write out His/Her name on non-religious documents. Those who have no religion, or who practice a religion without a G-d, are surely disfranchised by such posting, which implies that all who come forth in this public venue have such a belief in that same G-d.
Item 5. Jews and the Ten Commandments.
The third Commandment of the ten as Jews read them refers to not taking G-d's name in vain. Jews put major barriers around this commandment (and around the others), such that we do not write out G‑d's name. We don't even write out "G‑d." Therefore, the practice of inscribing His/Her name on a non-religious, civil place is offensive. It is courting – as Teddy Roosevelt also felt – taking His/Her name in vain.
Of course, additionally, we would go to our deaths under yet another commandment (of the 613 in the Bible) to keep G-d's name from being defamed.  Hence the extra-prudent use of a dash in the middle of "G-d."
Item 6. Which G-d?
Which G-d is it whom we trust so much? What do we trust Him/Her for? Are we being derelict in our duties in carrying forth the public's business, such that we have to trust Someone Else to oversee it?
Item 7. What the Hell Is Patriotic About It?
I see nothing patriotic about the slogan "In G-d We Trust," where "E Pluribus Unum" serves everything patriotic about our country. And it came first. When adopted in 1956, "In G-d We Trust" was considered an alternative or replacement. "E Pluribus Unum" dates to the creation and adoption in 1782 of the Great Seal of the United States.  1956 is hardly "historic," even though it's the year I was born.  :-)
Additionally, the vague reference to this slogan being a profound source of inspiration in war and peace is ridiculous.  I can say with some certainty that my father fought in WW2 for freedom, equality, and The Flag.  I can pretty much say he did not fight for that slogan.
Item 8. Get Off It Already.
As someone who has been told numerous times to "get off it already" concerning our need for recountable voting systems,** I can say that it is time for County Council (and Rep. Saccone) to be told the same. We don't need religion in our public discourse. When doing the people's business, there is no place for religion.
**Please feel free to speak about the need for new voting systems, too.  Another day.
Item 9. Separation of Church and State.
CornellUniversity's site says, concisely:
The First Amendment's Establishment Clause prohibits the government from making any law "respecting an establishment of religion." This clause not only forbids the government from establishing an official religion, but also prohibits government actions that unduly favor one religion over another. It also prohibits the government from unduly preferring religion over non-religion, or non-religion over religion.
Not to be dramatic about it, but how was the Spanish Inquisition begun? By Spain deciding that only one religion was for Spain, and the clerics letting the power go to their heads (to be way too concise).
Item 10. More Separation of Church and State.
The State will not pay for any lawsuits brought because of the posting of "In G-d We Trust" pursuant to their new piece of legislation. The ACLU has reportedly already promised to look into filing suit concerning the State legislation. Why leave the County open to suit?
Item 11. Wasting Time. Wasting Money.
County Council and County employees should better use the time and money to research (maybe create) and buy new secure, accessible, recountable voting systems with paper ballots for audits and recounts.
Instead of following the chauvinistic and prejudiced lead of other counties who believe their G-d is the only one, we in Allegheny County should take the lead in being welcoming to all.  "E Pluribus Unum" has been our country's motto since 1782, and it includes everyone.
Here is what Audrey Glickman said on Tuesday in Public Comment, except for the blue items:
Audrey N. Glickman, 3548 Beechwood Boulevard, Greenfield.
Regarding Bill 8376-14, In G-d We Trust.
Why do we need this legislation?  What public good is served?  Does it do no harm?
I see only one intention behind it:  An attempt to impose some citizens' religion on others.  Representative Saccone pushed his bill through the State, and now all the counties are jumping on the bandwagon.  Can't AlleghenyCounty be a leader rather than sailing headlong to join the retrograde? 
As a Jew, I am offended.  Many Jews interpret the commandment against "taking G-d's name in vain" to include prohibiting writing G‑d's name except in use for prayer and other religious applications.  We don't even write out the word "G-d," we generally put a dash instead of an "o," as a part of the mandate for reverence.
Writing that motto on the wall is a distinct affront to Jews – and others – who believe that G-d has no place in civic ephemera. 
One's beliefs must remain separate from one's civic engagement if we are to retain a civil society.
If we are believers, we honor G-d by doing the people's business in an honest and civil manner.  We honor each other the same.  We could well write "We are trusting in each other"!
Our national motto is E Pluribus Unum.  Dating to 1782 rather than 1956, it's a much more appro­pri­ate motto, and it's still on the books.  It reflects our multicultural society coming together to do good works. 
This other thing is an alternate motto which did NOT "originate in Pennsylvania," it was Salmon Chase from New Hampshire who wrote the line and ordered it for coins.  A former Pennsylvania governor happened to be Director of the Mint.  Teddy Roosevelt, by the way, later notably objected to its use on coins.
And you are considering placing it ABOVE the BILL OF RIGHTS!  The very document which says that government shall not establish a religion!
This is in NO regard a "patriotic motto."  [And veterans generally say they fought for the Flag, not this slogan.  G-d has little place in war.  G-d knows there are enough countries in this world emphasizing G-d for war.]
When doing the people's business, there is no place for religion.
So many came to this country for freedom of and from religion.  Plastering one religion on our public spaces is a form of bullying that cannot be tolerated.
And it is just ONE religion, Christianity.  Maybe you all are Christians.  I can respect and honor your beliefs, whatever they are.  I expect the same in return.
The real American thing to do is to welcome everyone.  The majority of your constituents is American.
In religion, majority gets no priority.  In religion, majority gets no priority.  That would be oppression.  Look at it this way – what if a certain other majority asked us to write on the wall "Women Rule"!

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