Discuss as:

House to vote on making 'In God We Trust' nation's motto

The House will vote tonight on a bill that would solidify the phrase "In God We Trust" as the nation's motto, and would support and encourage "the public display of the national motto in all public buildings, public schools, and other government institutions."

The vote should occur around 6:30 pm ET.

The bill, which was introduced by Rep. Randy Forbes (R-VA), will likely pass with the two-thirds majority needed to pass, but it is not without its opponents. In a report of dissenting views from Democratic members of the Committee on the Judiciary Committee, five Democrats call the bill "unnecessary" and a violation of "the First Amendment's prohibition against the establishment of religion."

The List of Dissenters: Reps. John Conyers (D-MI), Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Robert "Bobby" Scott (D-VA), Melvin Watt (D-NC), Judy Chu (D-CA).

Key Statements in Dissenting Opinion Report:

"For more than 50 years, the National Motto has been the law of the land. While some have questioned its constitutionality, none of these challenges has succeeded. We wonder, therefore, why the Majority believes this precatory intervention by Congress is so necessary."

"By aggressively pursuing a vehicle that places the government in the position of making an affirmatively religious statement, the Majority has transgressed the clear line between government and religion in violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment."

Here is some background information on the "In God We Trust” motto from the report:

The motto IN GOD WE TRUST was placed on United States coins largely because of the increased religious sentiment existing during the Civil War. Secretary of the Treasury Salmon P. Chase received many appeals from devout persons throughout the country, urging that the United States recognize the Deity on United States coins.

From Treasury Department records, it appears that the first such appeal came in a letter dated November 13, 1861. It was written to Secretary Chase by Rev. M. R. Watkinson, Minister of the Gospel from Ridleyville, Pennsylvania.

. . .

As a result, Secretary Chase instructed James Pollock, Director of the Mint at Philadelphia, to prepare a motto, in a letter dated November 20, 1861:

Dear Sir: No nation can be strong except in the
strength of God, or safe except in His defense. The trust
of our people in God should be declared on our national
coins.

You will cause a device to be prepared without unnecessary
delay with a motto expressing in the fewest and
tersest words possible this national recognition.

It was found that the Act of Congress dated January 18, 1837, prescribed the mottoes and devices that should be placed upon the coins of the United States. This meant that the mint could make no changes without the enactment of additional legislation by the Congress. In December 1863, the Director of the Mint submitted designs for new one-cent coin, two-cent coin, and three-cent coin to Secretary Chase for approval. He proposed that upon the designs either OUR COUNTRY; OUR GOD or GOD, OUR TRUST should appear as a motto on the coins. In a letter to the Mint Director on December 9, 1863, Secretary Chase stated:

I approve your mottoes, only suggesting that on that
with the Washington obverse the motto should begin
with the word OUR, so as to read OUR GOD AND
OUR COUNTRY. And on that with the shield, it
should be changed so as to read: IN GOD WE TRUST.

The Congress passed the Act of April 22, 1864. This legislation changed the composition of the one-cent coin and authorized the minting of the two-cent coin. The Mint Director was directed to develop the designs for these coins for final approval of the Secretary. IN GOD WE TRUST first appeared on the 1864 two-cent coin.

Another Act of Congress passed on March 3, 1865. It allowed the Mint Director, with the Secretary's approval, to place the motto on all gold and silver coins that ''shall admit the inscription thereon.'' Under the Act, the motto was placed on the gold double-eagle coin, the gold eagle coin, and the gold half-eagle coin. It was also placed on the silver dollar coin, the half-dollar coin and the quarter-dollar coin, and on the nickel three-cent coin beginning in 1866. Later, Congress passed the Coinage Act of February 12, 1873. It also said that the Secretary may cause the motto IN GOD WE TRUST to be inscribed on such coins as shall admit of such motto. . . .''

The motto has been in continuous use on the one-cent coin since 1909, and on the ten-cent coin since 1916. It also has appeared on all gold coins and silver dollar coins, half-dollar coins, and quarter-dollar coins struck since July 1, 1908.

A law passed by the 84th Congress (P.L. 84-851) and approved by the President on July 30, 1956, the President approved a Joint Resolution of the 84th Congress, declaring IN GOD WE TRUST the national motto of the United States. IN GOD WE TRUST was first used on paper money in 1957, when it appeared on the one-dollar silver certificate. The first paper currency bearing the motto entered circulation on October 1, 1957. The Bureau of Engraving and Printing was converting to the dry intaglio printing process. During this conversion, it gradually included IN GOD WE TRUST in the back design of all classes and denominations of currency.