WASHINGTON -- The House took a break from battles over economic policy and returned to a clash from the culture war.

With overwhelming bipartisan support, the Republican-led chamber voted Tuesday to reaffirm "In God We Trust" as the official motto of the United States and encourage the motto's display in all public schools and buildings.

The move inevitably reopened a debate over separation of church and state, the sort of social issue that has taken a backseat this year to the budget deficit and flagging economy.

The resolution drew praise from Christian conservatives who see an effort to withdraw references to God from the public sphere.

"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," read the resolution, introduced by Rep. Randy Forbes, R-Va.

Critics saw the vote as unnecessary, more of 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.

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