In January 2011, Congressman J. Randy Forbes introduced H.Con.Res.13, to reaffirm 'In God We Trust' as our national motto and encourage its display in public buildings and government institutions. 'In God We Trust' has been our nation's motto for over five decades. It is part of our national anthem and alluded to in our Pledge of Allegiance. It is written on our coins and our currency and is engraved in both the House and the Senate chambers, as well as in numerous public building across our nation.
In recent years, there has been an orchestrated and often well-financed attempt to remove even the mention of the word ‘God’ from the public arena. These actions go far beyond any effort to separate church and state. They go far beyond any attempt at revisionist history and actually result in a censorship of the rich history of faith America has enjoyed since her birth.
The pendulum has swung from efforts to prevent government from adopting a particular denomination or religion, to a point where there are daily efforts to convince our citizens that the mere mention of ‘God’ or ‘faith’ by a former president, statesman, member of the judiciary, or military leader must be censored and not displayed in the public arena. Our children often have been made to feel it is inappropriate to even say the word ‘God’ in school.
To fuel these efforts, some have attempted to change our national motto on a de facto basis by denying that ‘In God We Trust’ is in fact our motto. When efforts to change the motto are overwhelmingly rejected by the American people, those individuals or groups seek to remove the motto from display. The result is confusion as to whether our motto has been changed or whether we have the right to display it.
The resolution to reaffirm our national motto and encourage its display had 64 bipartisan cosponsors and was reported favorably out of the House Judiciary Committee in March of 2011. On November 1, 2011, 396 Members of the Congress voted to reaffirm ‘In God We Trust’ as our national motto and to encourage its display. Only 9 Members refused to support it.
Why Reaffirm 'In God We Trust'?
President Obama inaccurately proclaims "E Pluribus Unum' our national motto. Last November before a worldwide audience, in a much-anticipated and much-publicized speech focusing on the United States' relationship with the Muslim world, President Obama falsely proclaimed that our national motto was E pluribus unum. In reaction, 42 bipartisan Members of Congress wrote a letter calling on the President to correct his inaccurate statement, noting that the official national motto is In God We Trust. Not only did the President fail to issue a correction, he has failed to even respond to the letter. The uncorrected transcript of the Jakarta speech in which President Obama states, "In the United States, our motto is E pluribus unum -- out of many, one" remains on the White House website. E pluribus unum has never been the motto of the United States.
Misunderstanding of the phrase "Separation of Church and State". The First Amendment to the Constitution reads, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” The words ‘separation of church and state’ do not appear in the U.S. Constitution. Rather, the phrase originates from a letter penned by Thomas Jefferson on January 1, 1802, to the Danbury Baptist Association. In fact, just two days after sending this letter, on January 3, 1802, President Thomas Jefferson attended a church service in the U.S. Capitol. The Supreme Court has held, “The First Amendment, however, does not say that in every and all respects there shall be a separation of Church and State. . . We find no constitutional requirement which makes it necessary for government to be hostile to religion.”
Rogue Court Challenges. Even despite the constitutionality of ‘In God We Trust’ being established by the courts, just since 1996 there have been 7 direct court challenges to the motto. These cases are not isolated to one area of the country; instead, one-third of our federal circuit courts across the United States have heard appeals challenging ‘In God We Trust’. Some groups bringing these challenges directly seek "freedom from religion," a goal which grossly distorts the constitutionally-granted "freedom of religion." These cases have sought to challenge the motto itself, as well as its inscription on our currency and display on public buildings. In every case, the courts have upheld the constitutionality of the national motto. Other court challenges have been brought in recent years aimed at prayer in school, the long-standing displays of crosses at veteran’s memorials, the words ‘under God’ in the Pledge of Allegiance, the National Day of Prayer, and the words ‘so help me God,’ frequently used to conclude the presidential oath of office.
Inaccuracies and Omissions in the Half-Billion-Dollar Capitol Visitor Center. In 2008, the over half-billion dollar Capitol Visitor Center opened for the purpose of educating over 15,000 Capitol visitors daily on the “legislative process as well as the history and development of the architecture and art of the U.S. Capitol.” When finally opened, however, Capitol Visitor Center historians had sanitized the public building of any references to our national motto, including replacing the inscription of ‘In God We Trust,’ inscribed above the Speaker’s Rostrum with stars in a replica of the House Chamber and cropping an actual picture of the chamber so you could not see the words ‘In God We Trust.’ Additionally, a plaque was placed in the Visitors Center falsely "educating" visitors the national motto was “E Pluribus Unum.” Only after Members of Congress intervened publically and legislatively were these omissions and inaccuracies corrected.
Efforts to Remove God from Public Domain. In recent years unelected government bureaucrats have become increasingly apt to remove, obscure, or bar references to God or our national motto, even when their actions reverse decades of long-standing traditions. In most cases, congressional intervention and pressure was required to reverse the decision.
It is our History.
At our nation's founding. Authors penned the Declaration of Independence writing, “And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.”
In nation's infancy. Francis Scott Key wrote the poem that would become our national anthem the Star Spangled Banner containing the stanza, “And this be our motto—‘In God is our trust.’”
In the midst of the Civil War. President Lincoln addressing a war torn, weary, and divided nation, saying at the Gettysburg address, “this Nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that Government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”
During the economic expansion of America's industrialization. Congresses passed the Coinage Act stating that the Secretary of the Treasury "may cause the motto ‘In God We Trust’ to be inscribed on such coins as shall admit of such motto."
World War I. In his speech before Congress asking for a declaration of war, President Wilson said “…the day has come when America is privileged to spend her blood and her might for the principles that gave her birth and happiness and the peace which she has treasured. God helping her, she can do no other.”
After nearly a decade of Great Depression. President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued a Thanksgiving proclamation saying, “Thus from our earliest recorded history, Americans have thanked God for their blessings. In our deepest natures, in our very souls, we, like all mankind since the earliest origin of mankind, turn to God in time of trouble and in time of happiness. ‘In God We Trust.’”
At D-Day facing Nazi advances on Europe. In his famous radio address, President Franklin D. Roosevelt asked Americans to join him in praying, “Help us, Almighty God, to rededicate ourselves in renewed faith in Thee in this hour of great sacrifice… As we rise to each new day, and again when each day is spent, let words of prayer be on our lips, invoking Thy help to our efforts.”
During the Baby Boom. ‘In God We Trust’ was inscribed above the south entrance door in the Senate chamber during the 1949-1951 reconstruction.
Cold War and Economic Prosperity. In a speech given during the Cold War, President John F. Kennedy said, “Today our Nation is passing through another time of trial… We will need to draw upon the best that this Nation has--often--and draw upon it physically and intellectually and materially. But we need also to call upon our great reservoir of spiritual resources… The guiding principle and prayer of this Nation has been, is now, and ever shall be ‘In God We Trust.’”
Civil Rights Movement. Two years after Brown vs. Board of Education and one year after Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a public bus, ‘In God We Trust’ was adopted as the official national motto of the United States.
Vietnam War. In the midst of the Vietnam War, President Lyndon Johnson said, “Not long ago I received a letter one morning from a mother whose son had been killed in Vietnam. . . . She concluded, ‘…As long as we believe, our strength is in our faith in God and He will never fail us.’ So, my countrymen, in those words from that dear mother are to be found the greatness of this Nation and also the strength of its President.”
Reagan Years. In 1984, in an address to the nation, responding to an effort to remove prayer from our public schools, President Reagan said, “The first amendment of the Constitution was not written to protect the people from religion; that amendment was written to protect religion from government tyranny. . . . The act that established our public school system called for public education to see that our children learned about religion and morality. References to God can be found in the Mayflower Compact of 1620, the Declaration of Independence, the Pledge of Allegiance, and the National Anthem. Our legal tender states, ‘In God We Trust.’ . . . But now we're told our children have no right to pray in school. Nonsense. The pendulum has swung too far toward intolerance against genuine religious freedom. It's time to redress the balance.”
1990’s. Following the Oklahoma City bombings, President Bill Clinton delivered a speech saying, “I ask all Americans tonight to pray—to pray for the people who have lost their lives, to pray for the families and the friends of the dead and the wounded, to pray for the people of Oklahoma City. May God's grace be with them.”
Present day. In 2002, in response to a case challenging the words ‘under God’ in the Pledge of Allegiance, Congress passed and President Bush signed a law reaffirming the Pledge of Allegiance and ‘In God We Trust’ as our national motto. Additionally, in 2006, the Senate reaffirmed ‘In God We Trust’ on the 50th anniversary of its adoption as the official national motto of the United States. On the night of the September 11 terrorist attacks, President George W. Bush delivered a speech to the nation saying, "Tonight, I ask for your prayers for all those who grieve, for the children whose worlds have been shattered, for all whose sense of safety and security has been threatened. And I pray they will be comforted by a power greater than any of us, spoken through the ages in Psalm 23: 'Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me.'”
Why Display 'In God We Trust'?
This month, 396 Members of Congress voted to support H.Con.Res.13 to encourage the display of ‘In God We Trust.’ When the motto was adopted by the Senate in 1956, the Congressional record noted that it “will be of great spiritual and psychological value to our country to have a clearly designated national motto of inspirational quality…”
From Francis Scott Key to President John F. Kennedy, some of the greatest leaders of our nation have recognized the importance and strength of the phrase ‘In God We Trust.’ It has guided this nation through wars, depressions, natural disasters, and challenges of every kind and nature. Three hundred ninety-six Members voted to allow it to continue to provide hope and inspiration to our country and to display it for the world to see.
As President John F. Kennedy said in a speech given during the Cold War:
“Today our Nation is passing through another time of trial… We will need to draw upon the best that this Nation has--often--and draw upon it physically and intellectually and materially. But we need also to call upon our great reservoir of spiritual resources… The guiding principle and prayer of this Nation has been, is now, and ever shall be ‘In God We Trust.’”
When we display this great motto, we are heeding President Kennedy’s warning and helping to ensure that the guiding principle and prayer of this Nation ever shall be ‘In God We Trust.’
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Congressman J. Randy Forbes, Founder
Senator James Lankford, Co-Chairman
For a complete list of Members of the Congressional
Prayer Caucus, click here.
Contact the Congressional Prayer Caucus Amy Vitale, Amy.Vitale@mail.house.gov