Americans United Criticizes Congressional Vote In Favor Of Religious Motto

Eager to placate the Religious Right, members of the House of Representatives are moving forward with a measure reaffirming “In God We Trust” as the national motto and calling for its display in public schools and government buildings.

The House Committee on the Judiciary voted March 17 to approve H. Con. Res. 13. The resolution, sponsored by U.S. Rep. Randy Forbes (R-Va.), reaffirms “In God We Trust” as the national motto and encourages its display in all public buildings, including public schools.

Americans United called on Congress to stop wasting time on matters like this.

“This is divisive and a diversion from important national issues,” said Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United. “No wonder public opinion of Congress is so low. We face a dire economic situation, the threat of a government shut-down and world instability, and House members are wasting time on symbolic religious issues.

“Millions of Americans believe in God and millions do not,” Lynn continued. “I doubt if any of them will make their decision about religious belief based on a politician’s non-binding resolution.”

The committee approved the measure on a voice vote, sending it to the full House. A vote there is expected, but the time table remains unclear.

During the committee debate, resolution backers asserted that the hand of God has influenced U.S. history.

“I believe the Founding Fathers were moved around like men on a chessboard put in place at that time so the world could have America,” said U.S. Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa).

King added that failure to display the motto would mean that the United States “would be an atheistic nation imposed by the minds of people who revert to the hard-core left.”

U.S. Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.), a Religious Right favorite, concurred. “I think God…rewards those, including nations, who earnestly seek him,” he said.

U.S. Rep. Robert C. Scott (D-Va.) spoke out against the resolution.

“First, it prefers religion over non-religion, which is a violation,” Scott said. “Furthermore, it endorses a specific type of religion, monotheism, over other religions, which is a violation.”

Lynn said the real reason for the resolution is to curry favor with Religious Right leaders who are increasingly anxious for their Republican allies in the House to act on social issues.

“This resolution is an easy way for House Speaker John Boehner and his friends to try to mollify religious conservatives,” said Lynn. “It’s shameful and disrespectful to use religion as a political tool.

“If members of Congress want to get into the decorating business, I suggest that they promote the posting of the Bill of Rights in public schools and buildings,” Lynn added. “That’s artwork that all Americans should be able to agree on.”

“In God We Trust” first appeared on coins during the Civil War. It was not officially adopted by Congress as the national motto until 1956 during the Cold War when American leaders wanted to distinguish the United States from the communists running the Soviet Union.

A better motto for America, Lynn said, is “E Pluribus Unum,” the original one adopted in 1782 as part of the national seal.

“E Pluribus Unum is Latin for ‘Out of many, one,’” said Lynn. “That’s a good description of America, one nation made up of people from many lands and faith perspectives.”