Opposing 'In God We Trust'

The debate over our nation's official motto, "In God We Trust," is back in full force after the U.S. House Judiciary committee approved a resolution on March 17 that would "reaffirm" the phrase as our nation's official motto and call for its public display in all government buildings, including public schools. The resolution will now go to the full House of Represenatives for a vote.

SCA has repeatedly objected to this resolution as an unnecessary and divisive measure that undermines our secular government and alienates millions of Americans who either have no god belief, or whose non-Judeo-Christian religious views do not involve use of the word "god." Earlier this week we called on our supporters to write to their House representative and ask them to oppose the resolution, and as of this posting, more than 2,3000 people have sent emails to members of Congress through our action alert system.

Yesterday, National Journal reporter Billy House wrote about SCA's opposition to the symbolic resolution, drawing particular attention to the many more important issues our representatives in Congress could be spending their time working on:

The nation faces massive debt. Hill lawmakers remain unable to reach agreement on this year’s budget (and must start working soon on a budget agreement for next year). And the military action in Libya comes on the heels of wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

It is against this busy and complex backdrop that some members of Congress are working on another concern -- reaffirming “In God We Trust” as the national motto.

That’s correct: reaffirming. A declaration of that phrase as the national motto was passed by Congress and signed by President Eisenhower as the law of the land in 1956, at the height of the Cold War.

But on Thursday, the House Judiciary Committee approved a resolution sponsored by Rep. Randy Forbes, R-Va., and co-sponsored by 64 others that, among other things, “supports and encourages the public display of the national motto in all public buildings, public schools and other government institutions.”

Forbes introduced his resolution last year. With Republicans now in control of the House, the reintroduced measure has gained more traction. A floor vote may be scheduled soon, although no date had been set as of Wednesday.

But this week, a coalition of atheists, agnostics, humanists, and others -- who argue the resolution is unneeded, inappropriate, and not inclusive of the beliefs of all Americans -- has launched a campaign urging citizens to e-mail lawmakers about their opposition.

As many as 2,100 e-mails already have been sent to lawmakers objecting to the resolution, say leaders of the Secular Coalition for America.

“To me, as a former legislator myself, I was always skeptical of this kind of symbolic resolution,” said SCA Executive Director Sean Faircloth, who served for a decade in the Maine State Legislature, his last term as the Democratic majority whip.

While it may score political points for its sponsors, Faircloth contends, it also sends an inappropriate message that the religious views of certain Americans stand superior to others. He argues it is a message that some Founding Fathers such as James Madison also would have objected to.

Beyond its potential for causing division, Faircloth also questions the timing of the effort to “reaffirm” the motto, given the pressing list of other concerns facing Congress.

The full story is available here for National Journal subscribers. If you have not yet written to your representative in the House and would like to, you can do so using SCA's action alert center here.


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