Sometimes what needs to be done is obvious. Today in America, one of those priorities is addressing jobs. We must empower businesses to create jobs. We must increase competitiveness for U.S. manufacturing. We must pay down America's unsustainable debt burden.
But other times, what needs to be done is subtle. It may not be the headline of a national newspaper or the breaking news alert that comes across your Blackberry. Nevertheless, it is essential.
This week the House took up legislation I introduced that would reaffirm our national motto, In God We Trust, and encourage its display in public buildings and government institutions. The bill has 64 bipartisan cosponsors and was reported favorably out of the House Judiciary Committee earlier this year in March. The legislation will not directly address the jobs situation in America. Yet, its subtle significance is too strong to ignore.
Speckled throughout our nation’s history, “In God We Trust” has guided our nation. It provided a foundation upon which we established our government. It offered hope to a war-torn nation as brother fought brother on the fields of Gettysburg. It directed President Roosevelt as he addressed Americans on D-Day asking them 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 effort.” The motto has been inscribed on doorways and on our coins. It has been boldly proclaimed in speeches from President Lincoln, to President Kennedy, to President Reagan, to President Clinton.
But today, there is a brewing and disturbing pattern of inaccuracy and omissions regarding the motto that has arisen in the public square. The Department of Veterans Affairs attempted to ban flag folding recitations at military funerals that referenced God or religion, even if specifically requested by the family of the deceased. The U.S. Mint attempted to remove the inscription “In God We Trust" from the front of the new Presidential dollar and instead print it on the edge of the coin. The Architect of the Capitol refused a teen's request for a certificate noting his grandfather's "love of God, country and family" to accompany a souvenir flag that had flown over the building - a decision that would have prohibited even the Pledge of Allegiance from being printed on the flag certificates. Even the President of the United States, before a worldwide audience, in a much-anticipated and much-publicized speech focusing on the United States' relationship with the Muslim world, falsely proclaimed that our national motto was E pluribus unum.
These efforts come on top of rogue court challenges - there have been seven since 1996 - and misunderstandings of the phrase "Separation of Church and State,” despite the fact that 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.”
These efforts are disturbing because Americans know “In God We Trust” is a fundamental characteristic of our nation. In troubling times, our nation has consistently looked towards that one simple truth for hope. After nearly a decade of Great Depression, President Roosevelt declared “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.”
Today, we face difficult times once again. Unemployment has consistently hovered just under 10%. It takes the average job seeker 40.5 weeks to find a job - the longest average time that Americans have been unemployed since the statistic was first recorded in 1948. Our national debt threatens the future of our children and grandchildren. Many Americans feel their country is slipping from their fingertips. And when they see “In God We Trust” slipping from our history books and being removed from the center of our guiding principles, reaffirming that truth becomes important to them.
And so Tuesday night, the House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly to reaffirm “'In God We Trust” as our official motto. While this reaffirmation may not directly create jobs, it offers optimism during tumultuous times. It provides clarity amidst a cloud of confusion about our nation's spiritual heritage and offers inspiration to an American people that face challenges of historic proportion.
It is not just a reaffirmation of four words. It is a reaffirmation of the American spirit. It is a recommitment to the principles that define our nation. It is America looking boldly in the face of challenge and declaring we will have a hopeful future. It is America declaring in God we still trust.