PITTSBURGH (NewsRadio 1020 KDKA/AP) – Allegheny County Council failed to pass a measure aiming to post “In God We Trust” in County Council chambers.
The vote needed eight votes in favor to pass, but failed in an 8-6 vote against it.
Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald pledged to veto a measure.
The Democrat official said the measure attacks diversity and says in a letter released to the media that it may offend those who are “Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist, Atheist, Muslim, Islamic or any other non-theistic group.”
Fitzgerald says it is “a movement by the right-wing evangelical Christians across the county basically to impose Christianity in courthouses and school buildings across the country.”
“Allegheny County and this region have become an accepting and inviting region in which we invite all people,” Fitzgerald said.
He says he believes that displaying the motto would discourage that welcoming attitude.
The effort was approved by council’s government reform committee after several members agreed to add Pennsylvania’s motto of “Virtue, Liberty and Independence” and another U.S. motto, “E Pluribus Unum” to any display.
The bill was voted on at council’s Tuesday meeting.
Congress passed a law mandating “In God We Trust” be on all coins and currency in 1955, a year before it became the nation’s official motto.
“In God We Trust” is featured on the currency of the United States, so why does Fitzgerald think that the motto is “non-inviting?” He calls it a “code word” that right-wing evangelicals are using to push their agenda across the country.
He also recognizes that the Allegheny County Courthouse has had the Ten Commandments displayed on its outside walls for more than 100 years.
Fitzgerald says he believes this is a different circumstance because, “it has a historical significance,” and the proposed motto is about “trying to put something new, something branding on the courthouse that basically is non-inviting.”
“One of the things [the county] has lacked over the last couple of decades [when] our economy wasn’t doing very well, we didn’t attract people from other parts of the world like other communities did,” he said. “I think if we are going to be an inviting community, sending this kind of a signal would not be the best way to go.”
In his opinion, Fitzgerald says he thinks council is “posed to vote no” on the measure.