[House Report 112-47]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office]

112th Congress                                                   Report
                        HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
 1st Session                                                     112-47


                        GOVERNMENT INSTITUTIONS


   March 31, 2011.--Referred to the House Calendar and ordered to be 


       Mr. Smith of Texas, from the Committee on the Judiciary, 
                        submitted the following

                              R E P O R T

                             together with

                            DISSENTING VIEWS

                     [To accompany H. Con. Res. 13]

    The Committee on the Judiciary, to whom was referred the 
concurrent resolution (H. Con. Res. 13) reaffirming ``In God We 
Trust'' as the official motto of the United States and 
supporting and encouraging the public display of the national 
motto in all public buildings, public schools, and other 
government institutions, having considered the same, reports 
favorably thereon without amendment and recommends that the 
concurrent resolution be agreed to.


Purpose and Summary..............................................     1
Background and Need for the Legislation..........................     2
Hearings.........................................................     4
Committee Consideration..........................................     5
Committee Votes..................................................     5
Committee Oversight Findings.....................................     5
New Budget Authority and Tax Expenditures........................     5
Congressional Budget Office Cost Estimate........................     5
Performance Goals and Objectives.................................     5
Advisory on Earmarks.............................................     5
Section-by-Section Analysis......................................     5
Dissenting Views.................................................     6

                          Purpose and Summary

    H. Con. Res 13's resolution clause provides that:

        Resolved by the House of Representatives (the Senate 
        concurring), That Congress reaffirms ``In God We 
        Trust'' as the official motto of the United States and 
        supports and encourages the public display of the 
        national motto in all public buildings, public schools, 
        and other government institutions.

                Background and Need for the Legislation

    H. Con. Res. 13 was introduced by Rep. Randy Forbes on 
January 26, 2011. It has 64 cosponsors. It was referred to the 
Constitution Subcommittee on February 7, 2011.
    The national motto ``In God We Trust'' was officially 
adopted as the United States' national motto by a law passed by 
the 84th Congress. Public Law 84-851 (36 U.S.C. Sec. 302) 
provides that ```In God we trust' is the national motto.''
    The history of ``In God We Trust'' is described as follows 
by the U.S. Department of the Treasury:

        The motto IN GOD WE TRUST was placed on United States 
        coins largely because of the increased religious 
        sentiment existing during the Civil War. Secretary of 
        the Treasury Salmon P. Chase received many appeals from 
        devout persons throughout the country, urging that the 
        United States recognize the Deity on United States 
        coins. From Treasury Department records, it appears 
        that the first such appeal came in a letter dated 
        November 13, 1861. It was written to Secretary Chase by 
        Rev. M.R. Watkinson, Minister of the Gospel from 
        Ridleyville, Pennsylvania. . . .

        As a result, Secretary Chase instructed James Pollock, 
        Director of the Mint at Philadelphia, to prepare a 
        motto, in a letter dated November 20, 1861:

            LDear Sir: No nation can be strong except in the 
        strength of God, or safe except in His defense. The 
        trust of our people in God should be declared on our 
        national coins.

            LYou will cause a device to be prepared without 
        unnecessary delay with a motto expressing in the fewest 
        and tersest words possible this national recognition.

        It was found that the Act of Congress dated January 18, 
        1837, prescribed the mottoes and devices that should be 
        placed upon the coins of the United States. This meant 
        that the mint could make no changes without the 
        enactment of additional legislation by the Congress. In 
        December 1863, the Director of the Mint submitted 
        designs for new one-cent coin, two-cent coin, and 
        three-cent coin to Secretary Chase for approval. He 
        proposed that upon the designs either OUR COUNTRY; OUR 
        GOD or GOD, OUR TRUST should appear as a motto on the 
        coins. In a letter to the Mint Director on December 9, 
        1863, Secretary Chase stated:

            LI approve your mottoes, only suggesting that on 
        that with the Washington obverse the motto should begin 
        with the word OUR, so as to read OUR GOD AND OUR 
        COUNTRY. And on that with the shield, it should be 
        changed so as to read: IN GOD WE TRUST.

        The Congress passed the Act of April 22, 1864. This 
        legislation changed the composition of the one-cent 
        coin and authorized the minting of the two-cent coin. 
        The Mint Director was directed to develop the designs 
        for these coins for final approval of the Secretary. IN 
        GOD WE TRUST first appeared on the 1864 two-cent coin.

        Another Act of Congress passed on March 3, 1865. It 
        allowed the Mint Director, with the Secretary's 
        approval, to place the motto on all gold and silver 
        coins that ``shall admit the inscription thereon.'' 
        Under the Act, the motto was placed on the gold double-
        eagle coin, the gold eagle coin, and the gold half-
        eagle coin. It was also placed on the silver dollar 
        coin, the half-dollar coin and the quarter-dollar coin, 
        and on the nickel three-cent coin beginning in 1866. 
        Later, Congress passed the Coinage Act of February 12, 
        1873. It also said that the Secretary may cause the 
        motto IN GOD WE TRUST to be inscribed on such coins as 
        shall admit of such motto. . . .''

        The motto has been in continuous use on the one-cent 
        coin since 1909, and on the ten-cent coin since 1916. 
        It also has appeared on all gold coins and silver 
        dollar coins, half-dollar coins, and quarter-dollar 
        coins struck since July 1, 1908.

        A law passed by the 84th Congress (P.L. 84-851) and 
        approved by the President on July 30, 1956, the 
        President approved a Joint Resolution of the 84th 
        Congress, declaring IN GOD WE TRUST the national motto 
        of the United States. IN GOD WE TRUST was first used on 
        paper money in 1957, when it appeared on the one-dollar 
        silver certificate. The first paper currency bearing 
        the motto entered circulation on October 1, 1957. The 
        Bureau of Engraving and Printing was converting to the 
        dry intaglio printing process. During this conversion, 
        it gradually included IN GOD WE TRUST in the back 
        design of all classes and denominations of currency.\1\
    \1\See U.S. Department of the Treasury, ``History of `In God We 
Trust,''' available at http://www.treasury.gov/about/education/Pages/

    The Senate Chamber in the U.S. Capitol is inscribed with 
the words ``In God We Trust,'' and the same motto also appears 
directly behind the Speaker's chair in the House Chamber.
    H. Con. Res. 13 reaffirms ``In God We Trust'' as the 
official motto of the United States and provides Congress with 
the opportunity to renew its support of a principle that was 
venerated by the Founders of this country, and by its 
Presidents, on a bipartisan basis.
    In our Declaration of Independence, the Founders declared, 
``We . . . the Representatives of the United States of America 
. . . appealing to the Supreme Judge of the World . . . do . . 
. with a firm Reliance on the Protection of divine Providence . 
. . pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our 
sacred Honor.''\2\
    \2\The Declaration of Independence (1776).
    George Washington, as President of the Constitutional 
Convention, declared, ``Let us raise a standard to which the 
wise and the honest can repair; [this] event is in the hand of 
God!''\3\ Moreover, after Washington became President of the 
United States, he issued the first Thanksgiving Proclamation 
calling on ``Americans to acknowledge God's role in bringing 
them through the Revolution to the founding of their free 
    \3\4 U.S.C.A. Sec. 4 (historical notes).
    \4\Bruce Frohnen, The American Republic 69 (2002).
    James Madison, the Father of the Constitution, declared 
while he was president ``a day of thanksgiving and of . . . 
acknowledgments to Almighty God.'' Madison said in his 
declaration that ``No people ought to feel greater obligations 
to celebrate the goodness of the Great Disposer of Events and 
of the Destiny of Nations than the people of the United 
States.''\5\ Madison issued at least four Thanksgiving 
Proclamations while he was president.\6\
    \5\2 James D. Richardson, A Compilation of the Messages and Papers 
of the Presidents 546 (Bureau of National Literature, Inc.).
    \6\Robert Cord, Separation of Church and State 53 (1982).
    During the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln counseled Americans 
to have ``a firm reliance on [God] who has never yet forsaken 
this favored land'' and recognized that it is God's pleasure to 
``give us to see the right.''\7\
    \7\Speeches of the American Presidents 181 (Steven Anzovin & Janet 
Podell eds., The H.W. Wilson Co. 1988).
    More recently, America's Presidents have reaffirmed these 
same principles.
    President Franklin D. Roosevelt said, ``In teaching this 
democratic faith to American children, we need the sustaining, 
buttressing aid of those great ethical religious teachings 
which are the heritage of our modern civilization. For not upon 
strength nor upon power, but upon the spirit of God shall our 
democracy be founded.''\8\
    \8\Public Papers of the Presidents, F.D. Roosevelt, 1940, Item 149, 
Office of Fed. Reg. (2003).
    President Kennedy said, ``The world is very different now . 
. . And yet the same revolutionary beliefs for which our 
forebears fought are still at issue around the globe--the 
belief that the rights of man come not from the generosity of 
the state but from the hand of God.''\9\
    \9\Engel v. Vitale, 370 U.S. 421, 448 (1962) (dissenting opinion) 
(discussing quotes from Presidents Washington, Adams, Jefferson, 
Madison, Lincoln, Cleveland, Wilson, Roosevelt, Eisenhower and 
    And Ronald Reagan told the American people ``We are a 
nation under God, and I believe God intended for us to be 
    \10\Speeches of the American Presidents 749 (Steven Anzovin & Janet 
Podell eds., The H.W. Wilson Co. 1988).
    This Congress can now show that it still believes and 
recognizes those same eternal truths by approving a resolution 
that will allow today's Congress, as representatives of the 
American people, to reaffirm to the public and the world our 
Nation's national motto, ``In God We Trust.''


    The Committee on the Judiciary held no hearings on H. Con. 
Res. 13.

                        Committee Consideration

    On March 17, 2011, the Committee met in open session and 
ordered the resolution H. Con. Res. 13 favorably reported 
without amendment, by voice vote, a quorum being present.

                            Committee Votes

    In compliance with clause 3(b) of rule XIII of the Rules of 
the House of Representatives, the Committee advises that there 
were no recorded votes during the Committee's consideration of 
H. Con. Res. 13.

                      Committee Oversight Findings

    In compliance with clause 3(c)(1) of rule XIII of the Rules 
of the House of Representatives, the Committee advises that the 
findings and recommendations of the Committee, based on 
oversight activities under clause 2(b)(1) of rule X of the 
Rules of the House of Representatives, are incorporated in the 
descriptive portions of this report.

               New Budget Authority and Tax Expenditures

    Clause 3(c)(2) of rule XIII of the Rules of the House of 
Representatives is inapplicable because this legislation does 
not provide new budgetary authority or increased tax 

               Congressional Budget Office Cost Estimate

    With respect to the requirement of clause 3(c)(3) of rule 
XIII of the Rules of the House of Representatives and section 
402 of the Congressional Budget Act of 1974, the Committee 
advises that the resolution contains no measure that authorizes 
funding, so no cost estimate nor comparison for any measure 
that authorizes funding is required.

                    Performance Goals and Objectives

    The Committee states that pursuant to clause 3(c)(4) of 
rule XIII of the Rules of the House of Representatives, H. Con. 
Res. 13, will reaffirm ``In God We Trust'' as the official 
motto of the United States and support and encourage the public 
display of the national motto in all public buildings, public 
schools, and other government institutions.

                          Advisory on Earmarks

    In accordance with clause 9 of rule XXI of the Rules of the 
House of Representatives, H. Con. Res. 13 does not contain any 
congressional earmarks, limited tax benefits, or limited tariff 
benefits as defined in clause 9(e), 9(f), or 9(g) of Rule XXI.

                      Section-by-Section Analysis

    H. Con. Res. 13 reaffirms ``In God We Trust'' as the 
official motto of the United States and supports and encourages 
the public display of the national motto in all public 
buildings, public schools, and other government institutions.

                            Dissenting Views

    Today we face the highest budget deficit in our Nation's 
history, a national unemployment rate of nearly 9%, and an 
ongoing mortgage foreclosure crisis. American forces are 
deployed in combat on several fronts, while our children who--
by the very circumstances of their birth--are placed into a 
cradle-to-prison pipeline. We are also in the midst of reacting 
to a natural disaster of unimaginable proportions that recently 
occurred in Japan and the resulting nuclear disaster, which may 
have worldwide import. Yet, instead of addressing any of these 
critical issues, and instead of working to help American 
families keep a roof over their heads and food on their tables, 
we are debating whether or not to affirm and proliferate a 
motto that was adopted in 1956 and that is not imperiled in any 
    Without question, the Judiciary Committee has many 
important and time-sensitive matters within its purview. The 
Majority, however, seems intent on diverting the Committee's 
time, resources, and attention to a measure that has no force 
of law, only reaffirms existing law, and further injects the 
hand of government into the private religious lives of the 
American people.
    By aggressively pursuing a vehicle that places the 
government in the position of making an affirmatively religious 
statement, the Majority has transgressed the clear line between 
government and religion in violation of the Establishment 
Clause of the First Amendment. We regret that the Judiciary 
Committee has needlessly wandered into these dangerous waters, 
and we respectfully dissent.

I. H. Con. Res. 13 Is Unnecessary.

    H. Con. Res. 13 addresses a problem that does not exist. 
For more than 50 years, the National Motto has been the law of 
the land.\1\ While some have questioned its constitutionality, 
none of these challenges has succeeded.\2\ We wonder, 
therefore, why the Majority believes this precatory 
intervention by Congress is so necessary.\3\
    \1\Act of July 30, 1956, ch. 795; 70 Stat. 732, codified at 36 
U.S.C. Sec. 302.
    \2\See, e.g., Kidd v. Obama, No. 10-5006, 387 Fed.Appx. 2, 2010 WL 
2930162 (D.C. Cir. July 21, 2010) (``Appellant has not demonstrated 
that appellees violated the First Amendment by printing the national 
motto, `In God We Trust,' on United States currency.'').
    \3\The 107th Congress, in another enterprise with no apparent legal 
effect, passed a bill that inter alia reaffirmed that ```In God we 
trust' is the national motto.'' Pub. L. No. 107-293, Sec. 3(a), 116 
Stat. 2061 (2002). To clarify that this provision was not intended to 
be a substantive amendment, but merely an attempt to ratify current 
law, the Act specifically directed the Office of the Law Revision 
Counsel to ``make no change in section 302, title 36, United States 
Code, but shall show in the historical and statutory notes that the 
107th Congress reaffirmed the exact language that has appeared in the 
Motto for decades.'' Id. at Sec. 3(b).

II. LH. Con. Res. 13 Violates the First Amendment's Prohibition Against 
        the Establishment of Religion.

    We are concerned that H. Con. Res. 13, its apparent 
purpose, and the manner in which it has been put forward, 
raises serious constitutional issues. The Religion Clauses of 
the First Amendment\4\ exist to protect religious liberty. They 
are not in conflict with each other, but rather reinforce 
religious liberty in different ways.
    \4\``Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of 
religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof. . . .'' U.S. Const. 
amend. I.
    The Establishment Clause not only prohibits the government 
from establishing an official religion, but also prohibits 
government actions that favor one religion over another. It 
also prohibits the government from preferring religion over 
non-religion, or non-religion over religion. The Establishment 
Clause protects the private rights of conscience of all 
Americans from governmental interference or involvement in 
religious affairs.
    Thomas Jefferson maintained that this prohibition extended 
far beyond the establishment of an official religion, as was 
the case under the British Crown. He wrote, ``I contemplate 
with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people 
which declared that their legislature should `make no law 
respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the 
free exercise thereof,' thus building a wall of separation 
between Church and State.''\5\ He further clarified, in a 
letter to Attorney General Levi Lincoln, his view:
    \5\Letter from Thomas Jefferson to the Danbury Baptist Association 
(Jan. 1, 1802), reprinted in Jefferson & Madison on the Separation of 
Church and State, at 163 (Lenni Brenner ed., 2004).

          The Baptist address, now enclosed, admits of a 
        condemnation of the alliance between Church and State, 
        under the authority of the Constitution. It furnishes 
        an occasion, too, which I have long wished to find, of 
        saying why I do not proclaim fastings and 
        thanksgivings, as my predecessors did.\6\
    \6\Letter from Thomas Jefferson to Attorney General Levi Lincoln 
(Jan. 1, 1802), id. at 164.

    The Supreme Court has devised a three part test, the so-
called ``Lemon Test,'' to determine whether a governmental 
action violates the Establishment Clause.\7\ In Lemon, the 
Court held that ``[f]irst, the statute must have a secular 
legislative purpose; second, its principal or primary effect 
must be one that neither advances nor inhibits religion; 
finally, the statute must not foster `an excessive government 
entanglement with religion.'''\8\
    \7\Lemon v. Kurtzman, 403 U.S. 602 (1971).
    \8\Id. at 612-13 (citations omitted).
    Where the governmental act is coercive, the Supreme Court 
has also held that it violates the Establishment Clause. For 
example, with respect to an invocation offered at a graduation 
exercise, the Court explained:

          As we have observed before, there are heightened 
        concerns with protecting freedom of conscience from 
        subtle coercive pressure in the elementary and 
        secondary public schools. Our decisions . . . 
        recognize, among other things, that prayer exercises in 
        public schools carry a particular risk of indirect 
        coercion. The concern may not be limited to the context 
        of schools, but it is most pronounced there. What to 
        most believers may seem nothing more than a reasonable 
        request that the nonbeliever respect their religious 
        practices, in a school context may appear to the 
        nonbeliever or dissenter to be an attempt to employ the 
        machinery of the State to enforce a religious 
    \9\Lee v. Weisman, 505 U.S. 577, 592 (1992).

    While the Supreme Court has found that certain religious 
acts by government, such as the appointment by the legislature 
of a chaplain,\10\ or the placement of the Ten Commandments on 
public property under certain narrowly confined 
circumstances,\11\ not to violate the Constitution under the 
rubric of ``ceremonial deism,''\12\ the contours of this 
exception are not unlimited. As Justice O'Connor explained:
    \10\Marsh v. Chambers, 463 U.S. 783 (1983).
    \11\McCreary County v. American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky, 
545 U.S. 844 (2005); cf. Van Orden v. Perry, 545 U.S. 677 (2005).
    \12\Lynch v. Donnelly, 465 U.S. 668, 716 (1984) (O'Connor, J. 

          The constitutional value of ceremonial deism turns on 
        a shared understanding of its legitimate nonreligious 
        purposes. That sort of understanding can exist only 
        when a given practice has been in place for a 
        significant portion of the Nation's history, and when 
        it is observed by enough persons that it can fairly be 
        called ubiquitous. By contrast, novel or uncommon 
        references to religion can more easily be perceived as 
        government endorsements because the reasonable observer 
        cannot be presumed to be fully familiar with their 
        origins. As a result, in examining whether a given 
        practice constitutes an instance of ceremonial deism, 
        its `history and ubiquity' will be of great 
    \13\Elk Grove Unified School Dist. v. Newdow, 542 U.S. 1, 37 (2004) 
(O'Connor, J. concurring) (2004) (citations omitted).

    Under the endorsement test, we must ask whether the 
resolution is an unconstitutional endorsement of one view of 
religion over another. In fact, H. Con. Res. 13 does prefer 
religion over non-religion, which violates the Constitution. 
Second, it endorses a specific type of religion, monotheism, 
over other religions, which likewise is unconstitutional. When 
the government endorses a religion, as Justice O'Connor 
observed, it ``sends a message to non-adherents that they are 
outsiders, not full members of the political community, and an 
accompanying message to adherents that they are insiders, 
favored members of the political community.''\14\
    \14\Newdow v. U.S. Congress, 292 U.S. 597, 606 (1992) (quoting 
Lynch v. Donnelly, 465 U.S. 668, 687-688 (1984) (O'Connor, J., 
    We must remember that the United States is comprised of 
people of many faiths, as well as those who do not hold any 
religious beliefs, as is their right. The passage of this 
Resolution would, as Justice O'Connor warned, send a message to 
the American people that our government favors religion, and 
specifically one type of religion over another, in violation of 
the endorsement test.
    It is precisely the distinction that the Supreme Court has 
drawn between permissible ceremonial deism, in which the 
religious nature of the statement is de minimis, and prohibited 
endorsements of religion that creates the constitutional 
infirmities in this Resolution, notwithstanding the fact the 
National Motto has withstood constitutional challenge. As Rep. 
Scott observed during the markup:

        [T]he importance that we have fixed to this resolution 
        by holding this markup and having the debate increases 
        the magnitude of the attention we give to the issue and 
        subverts the argument that the resolution might be 
        considered de minimis and in fact increases the 
        constitutional vulnerability of the resolution. . . . 
        The motto that has been around for 50 or 60 years can 
        be in the same category as the Ten Commandments 
        displays that have been there for decades and have been 
        therefore approved. It is this resolution that is 
    \15\Tr. of markup of H. Con. Res 13, Reaffirming ``In God We 
Trust'' as the official Motto of the United States and Supporting and 
Encouraging the Public Display of the National Motto in All Public 
Buildings, Public Schools, and Other Government Institutions by the H. 
Comm. on the Judiciary, 112th Cong. at 22-23, 31 (2011) (remarks of 
Rep. Robert C. ``Bobby'' Scott (D-VA)) (unedited transcript).

    Statements by some of the proponents of this Resolution 
further reinforce this observation. For example, Rep. Trent 
Franks (R-AZ), Chairman of the Constitution Subcommittee, 

        Now, it may happen some day that an American generation 
        will completely reject the notion that our ultimate 
        trust is in the God who made us and gave this Nation as 
        a gift to the world. But by passing the Forbes 
        resolution today, we can proclaim to the world that 
        that day has not yet come and there is still hope that 
        it never will.\16\
    \16\Id. at 35 (Statement of Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ)).

Similarly, Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN) stated, ``We are engaged in a 
national debate between the deep religious heritage and 
tradition the overwhelming majority of Americans practice to 
this day and in a rising tide of secularism, driving its way 
deeper and deeper into the public square, deeper into the laws 
of the land that tell us that we cannot make certain displays 
in public.\17\ The conclusion we must draw from the Court's 
precedents, and from the flagrant appeals made by the sponsors 
to a more robust religious purpose, is that the resolution, 
while unnecessary, may itself call into question the claim that 
the National Motto is a permissible form of ceremonial deism.
    \17\Id. at 40 (Statement of Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN)).
    H. Con. Res. 13 also fails the coercion test, which 
examines whether individuals are coerced into being exposed to 
a religious message. The Resolution clearly supports and 
encourages the public display of the National Motto in all 
public buildings, public schools, and other government 
institutions, which conflicts with concerns expressed by the 
Supreme Court:

        [T]he Court has been particularly vigilant in 
        monitoring compliance with the Establishment Clause in 
        elementary and secondary schools. Families entrust 
        public schools with the education of their children, 
        but condition their trust on the understanding that the 
        classroom will not purposely be used to advance 
        religious views that may conflict with the private 
        beliefs of the student and his or her family. Students 
        in such institutions are impressionable and their 
        attendance is involuntary.\18\
    \18\Edwards v. Aguillard, 482 U.S. 578, 583-84 (1987).

Similarly, the Resolution forcibly subjects individuals who 
must visit a government building to transact official business, 
such as acquiring a passport or social security card, to 
particular religious messages. It also, in effect, forces 
Americans to subsidize--through their hard-earned taxpayer 
dollars--the display of particular religious messages.
    H. Con. Res. 13 on its face lacks any secular or 
nonreligious purpose. In fact, the very language of the 
Resolution makes clear that it is intended to promote religious 
sentiment: it advances religion by preferring religion over 
non-religion and endorses a specific type of religion, 
monotheism, over other religions. By actively seeking to 
promote displays of the motto in public buildings, public 
schools and other government institutions, the Resolution 
creates unnecessary and excessive government entanglement with 

III. Conclusion.

    While the proponents of H. Con. Res. 13 are correct when 
they observe that the vast majority of Americans are religious, 
and that many prominent figures in our history have spoken 
eloquently of the importance of faith, they fail to understand 
that the Establishment Clause does not protect government from 
religion, but religion from government. It is precisely because 
we place such a high value on religious freedom--our first 
freedom--that we must keep the heavy hand of government away 
from that precious liberty. H. Con. Res. 13, by interjecting 
Congress into the private right of conscience, threatens that 
important constitutional bulwark of our freedoms in violation 
of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.
    For these reasons, we respectfully dissent.

                                   John Conyers, Jr.
                                   Jerrold Nadler.
                                   Robert C. ``Bobby'' Scott.
                                   Melvin L. Watt.
                                   Judy Chu.