U.S. Rep. Randy Forbes' bill to reaffirm "In God We Trust" as the national motto and encourage its display in all public schools was approved by a House committee Thursday after a sharp partisan debate.
Opponents argued it goes too far in pushing one religious belief, while supporters said it acknowledges what they consider God's role in the success of the United States.
The legislation, approved in a voice vote by the Judiciary Committee, is similar to a bill that Forbes, a Chesapeake Republican, unsuccessfully proposed in the previous session when the House had a Democratic majority. The current measure was sent to the full House, now controlled by Republicans. It has 64 co-sponsors - 60 Republicans and four Democrats.
Forbes said the legislation is needed to combat a concerted effort by some to drive all references to God out of public institutions.
Several Republicans on the committee backed Forbes, saying God had a hand in founding the United States and is responsible for the nation's success.
"I believe the Founding Fathers were moved around like men on a chessboard put in place at that time so the world could have America," said U.S. Rep. Steve King of Iowa, a bill co-sponsor.
If references to God are discouraged in public buildings, King said, "in the end, it wouldn't be an agnostic nation, it would be an atheistic nation imposed by the minds of people who revert to the hard-core left."
U.S. Rep. Mike Pence of Indiana said the "hand of providence" has guided America.
"I think God is, and he rewards those, including nations, who earnestly seek him," he said.
The most strident of the Democratic legislators who spoke out against Forbes' bill was another Hampton Roads lawmaker: U.S. Rep. Bobby Scott.
The Newport News Democrat, whose district is next to Forbes', said the bill violates the U.S. Constitution's First Amendment, which states that "Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion."
"First, it prefers religion over non-religion, which is a violation," Scott said. "Furthermore, it endorses a specific type of religion, monotheism, over other religions, which is a violation.
"Families entrust public schools with the public education of their children but condition their trust on the understanding that the classroom will not purposefully be used to advance religious views that may conflict with the private beliefs of the student and his or her family," Scott said.
Saturday, March 19, 2011
"In God We Trust" ... Continued
A Thursday post described recent activity concerning the national motto. The Virginian-Pilot reports on further developments: