GOP bill would affirm 'In God We Trust' as national motto

House Republicans on Tuesday will try to pass a resolution reaffirming that "In God We Trust" is the national motto of the United States.

The concurrent resolution, sponsored by Rep. Randy Forbes (R-Va.), would not have the force of law, but instead is aimed at "supporting and encouraging the public display of the national motto in all public buildings, public schools and other government institutions."

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The bill briefly outlines the history of government references to God, and adds in that "if religion and morality are taken out of the market-place of ideas, the very freedom on which the United States was founded cannot be secured."

Republicans argue that the resolution would help turn the tide against what they see as an informal effort to remove references to God from public buildings.

"Federal agencies and departments have been instructed that the phrase not be posted in those buildings," Forbes wrote in March. "The effect on our public schools has been chilling, as teachers and administrators do not know whether they can post our national motto on their walls."

House passage is in doubt, as Republicans will bring up the measure under a suspension of House rules, which requires a two-thirds majority vote for passage. While some Democrats will likely support the bill, Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee wrote a length dissent against the bill when the committee approved it back in March.

Democrats argued that at a time of high unemployment and a record-high budget deficit, it makes little sense to spend time on what could be a divisive bill.

"Instead of addressing any of these critical issues, and instead of working to help American families keep a roof over their heads and food on their tables, we are debating whether or not to affirm and proliferate a motto that was adopted in 1956 and that is not imperiled in any respect," they wrote in the committee report accompanying the bill.

"Without question, the Judiciary Committee has many important and time-sensitive matters within its purview," Democrats added. "The majority, however, seems intent on diverting the committee's time, resources and attention to a measure that has no force of law, only reaffirms existing law and further injects the hand of government into the private religious lives of the American people."

More specifically, Democrats argued that the resolution is unnecessary, and violates the prohibition on the government establishment of a religion.

"It is precisely because we place such a high value on religious freedom — our first freedom — that we must keep the heavy hand of government away from that precious liberty," they said. "H. Con. Res. 13, by interjecting Congress into the private right of conscience, threatens that important constitutional bulwark of our freedoms in violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment."