March 17th, 2011
11:58 AM ET
By Gabe LaMonica, CNN
The House Judiciary Committee is scheduled to vote Thursday on a measure to reaffirm “In God We Trust” as the national motto and to encourage its display on public buildings, including schools.
U.S. Rep. Randy Forbes, R-Virginia, is sponsoring the measure on the national motto, adopted in 1956.
Critics say the vote is purely political.
"Of course none of this is necessary," said the Rev. Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, a Washington advocacy group.
“No organization or group of graffiti artists is going around trying to cover up” the motto, he said. "This is all part of a silly season that usually occurs closer to election cycles."
Still, Lynn says he objects to the motto.
“Many American people believe in no God or in multiple gods, so the motto should be 'In God, or in no God, or in multiple gods we trust,'” he said.
Forbes has said that his resolution is a response to what he calls the increasing secularization of the public square.
“Over the past several years, there have been growing efforts to strip references to America’s religious heritage, including our national motto, from federal buildings, documents and ceremonies across the nation," he said in introducing the measure last year.
"But our laws and our Constitution do not require exclusion of God from matters of government and public life," he said. "This resolution seeks to reaffirm the foundation upon which our nation was built and acknowledges that trust in God is embedded into the fabric of society and history in the United States.”
Forbes' office says the bill has 56 cosponsors.
The debate over the “In God We Trust” motto is over a century old, with President Theodore Roosevelt arguing that it should not appear on coins, a practice that dates to the 1860s.
“It seems to me eminently unwise to cheapen such a motto by use on coins, just as it would be to cheapen it by use on postage stamps or advertisements," Roosevelt wrote in 1907.
But he supported the phrase in other places.
“A beautiful and solemn sentence such as the one in question,” Roosevelt wrote, “should be treated and uttered only with that fine reverence which necessarily implies a certain exultation of spirit."
He encouraged its display on national monuments and "wherever it will inspire a lofty emotion in those who look thereon."
The motto has appeared on paper currency since 1957.
The constitutionality of the motto on money has been unsuccessfully challenged in court, though the Supreme Court has declined to hear those cases.
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