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House reaffirms 'In God We Trust' as official U.S. motto

The nonbinding resolution, which passes 396 to 9, reopens debate over separation of church and state — the sort of social issue that has taken a back seat this year to economic challenges.

November 02, 2011|By Kathleen Hennessey, Washington Bureau

Reporting from Washington — The House took a break from battles over economic policy Tuesday and returned to the culture war.

With overwhelming bipartisan support, the Republican-led chamber voted to reaffirm "In God We Trust" as the official U.S. motto and encourage its display in all public schools and buildings.

The nonbinding resolution inevitably reopened a debate over separation of church and state — the sort of social issue that has taken a back seat this year to the debt ceiling, budget deficit and flagging economy.

Introduced by Rep. Randy J. Forbes (R-Va.), it passed 396 to 9. "Whereas if religion and morality are taken out of the marketplace of ideas, the very freedom on which the United States was founded cannot be secured," it reads.

Christian conservatives praised the effort, but critics saw it as an attempt to gin up support from the GOP base.

"I think we know by now that this Congress likes God. Can we move on?" said the Rev. Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

The Senate appeared unlikely to pass a similar resolution.

The motto has been official since 1956, but that hasn't stopped lawmakers from underlining it on occasion. In 2002, in response to a court ruling, President George W. Bush signed into law a bill reaffirming the motto and a reference to God in the Pledge of Allegiance.

In 2006, the Senate reaffirmed the motto on its 50th anniversary of officialdom. And in 2009, lawmakers voted to get the words etched on the new Capitol visitors center.

kathleen.hennessey@latimes.com

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