WASHINGTON – The House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly -- though not unanimously -- on Tuesday for a bill that would keep mentions of God in the Pledge of Allegiance and national motto.
Lawmakers voted 401-5 for the measure that calls for "under God" to stay in the Pledge of Allegiance and to keep "In God We Trust" as the national motto. Four others voted present.
In June, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the phrase "under God," inserted by Congress into the pledge in 1954, violates the separation of church and state because the phrase amounts to a government endorsement of religion.
The case that sparked the court ruling was brought by a California man who described himself as an atheist. He said he wanted to be able to raise his daughter free of godly interferences, like the use of the words in the daily recitation of the pledge at school. The child's mother said the father doesn't even raise the child, who is a strong believer in God.
The June ruling brought strong criticism from President Bush and members of Congress, who immediately gathered on the Capitol steps to recite the pledge. The next day, virtually the entire Senate showed up for a morning prayer to affirm that the United States is "one nation under God."
The House bill was ushered through by Rep. James Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. He said the bill reaffirms "the myriad of ways in which federal, state and local governments acknowledge America's religious heritage and its consistency with both historical practice and legal precedent."
The House bill gives directions on the appropriate manner for saying the pledge, which includes the removal of nonreligious headgear with the right hand to be held at the left shoulder as the hand rests on the heart.
The Senate is expected to pass an identical bill soon. It had already approved a bill that did not contain the headgear references. The bill will then go to the White House for the president's signature.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.