House to vote on "In God We Trust" motto

U.S. $1 dollar bill back, with detail of "In God We Trust"
U.S. $1 dollar bill

The Republican-led House will vote today on whether to reaffirm "In God We Trust" as the nation's motto.

While the issue may seem non-controversial, the bill to reaffirm the motto may not pass because Democrats say the vote is a waste of time, and today's "fast-track" vote will require the approval of two-thirds of the House. The bill's Republican sponsor says it is needed to stop a "disturbing trend" of dismissing the motto.

Today's House vote will "directly confront a disturbing trend of inaccuracies and omissions, misunderstandings of church and state, rogue court challenges, and efforts to remove God from the public domain by unelected bureaucrats," Rep. J. Randy Forbes, R-Va., said in a statement. "As our nation faces challenging times, it is appropriate for Members of Congress and our nation--like our predecessors--to firmly declare our trust in God, believing that it will sustain us for generations to come."

As evidence of this "disturbing trend," Forbes pointed to the fact that in a 2010 speech in Indonesia, President Obama called the phrase "E pluribus unum" the nation's motto. He also pointed to the dispute over the use of the phrase "in God we trust" in the relatively new visitors center at the Capitol Building.

A few Democrats have signed on as co-sponsors of the bill, but others have protested it. In a March House Judiciary Committee report, five Democrats wrote that the bill was a distraction from real problems.

"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," the report said.

The Democrats also argued the bill "creates unnecessary and excessive government entanglement with religion."

Similarly, Democrats complained Republicans were unjustifiably focused on social issues last month when the House voted to keep taxpayer money from funding abortions. "Everybody in America has the creation of jobs as their top priority and what are we doing, but wasting time," House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi said at the time.

The Washington Post notes that Republicans adopted new rules when they took the majority, prohibiting votes against most symbolic and commemorative resolutions, arguing that such measures were wasteful and made up one-third of all legislation considered by the previous Congress.