Opinion

In God We Trust – Under Attack Again

By Mike Fuljenz –

The national motto ‘In God We Trust’ is facing yet another legal challenge.

On Feb. 1, a group called the Freedom From Religion Foundation and 19 other plaintiffs sued the U.S. Treasury, demanding that the motto be removed from U.S. coins and paper money on grounds that its use constitutes “discrimination” against non-believers.

By handing their money to anyone in a commercial exchange, the plaintiffs argue, they are “forced to proselytize – by an act of Congress – for a deity they don’t believe in.” A similar case in 2011, brought by the same atheist attorney, Michael Newdow, went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, where it was rejected.

Most Americans, including President Barack Obama, have taken the words “In God We Trust” for granted. Thus, many were surprised in 2011 when the House of Representatives voted to reaffirm this simple phrase as the official national motto.

The story of the motto is an engrossing one, and from its inception in 1864, the phrase has been closely linked to the money in Americans’ pockets. The motto now appears on all U.S. coins and paper money, but nearly a century passed before that point was reached. One coin lacked the inscription as late as 1938 – and the motto didn’t appear at all on the nation’s paper money until 1957.

The phrase “In God We Trust” made headlines in October 2011 when the House passed a non-binding resolution by a vote of 396-9 reaffirming its status as the U.S. national motto. It did so after President Obama mistakenly referred to “E Pluribus Unum” as the nation’s official motto. That familiar phrase – which in Latin means “Out of many, one” – has appeared on U.S. coinage for more than two centuries, but enjoys no official status.

Democrats, including Obama, charged that in drafting and passing the resolution, the Republican-controlled House was wasting time.

In response, the sponsor of the resolution, Rep. Randy Forbes, R-Va., noted Obama’s earlier gaffe about “E Pluribus Unum” and pointed out that those words had earlier been engraved in the new Capitol Visitors Center until Congress ordered the use of the proper inscription. Forbes’ resolution supports and encourages the display of the words “In God We Trust” in all public schools and government buildings.

Exactly half a century before the motto “In God We Trust” first appeared on circulating U.S. coinage, a close approximation of this now-famous phrase turned up in a poem by Francis Scott Key that went on to attain equally iconic status when it was set to music and became “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Few Americans are aware of this precursor, for the words are embedded in the seldom read – and almost never sung – fourth stanza of the poem, but it provides a fascinating link between their country’s official national motto, adopted as such in 1956, and its official national anthem, an honor bestowed upon “The Star-Spangled Banner” in 1931.

In the poem’s penultimate sentence, those who read – or sing – the entire set of lyrics will find the following reference to the Almighty:

Then conquer we must, when our cause is just, And this be our motto: “In God is our trust.”

Many Americans mistakenly believe that the government’s use of the words “In God We Trust” dates back to the time of the Founding Fathers – as do two other familiar coinage inscriptions, “Liberty” and “E Pluribus Unum.” In fact, it was the bloody Civil War, not the American Revolution, that stoked religious fervor and gave rise to the phrase’s use on coins.

A Baptist minister from Ridleyville, Pa., the Rev. Mark R. Watkinson, is credited with planting the seed for this unprecedented action. In a letter to Salmon P. Chase, President Abraham Lincoln’s Treasury Secretary, dated Nov. 13, 1861, Watkinson urged that provision be made for “the recognition of the Almighty God in some form on our coins.”

Chase shared Watkinson’s view. And he soon set in motion steps that led to a prominent reference to God on U.S. coinage. After receiving the minister’s letter, he sent a note to Mint Director James Pollock stating: “The trust of our people in God should be declared on our national coins.” Three mottos reflecting such trust were seriously considered for our coinage: “God Our Trust,” “God and Our Country,” and “In God We Trust.”

The late Walter Breen, a renowned numismatic researcher and scholar, speculated that the final and now-familiar inscription – “In God We Trust” – was influenced by the motto of Chase’s alma mater, Brown University: “In Deo Speramus,” a Latin phrase meaning “In God We Hope.” Ironically, Newdow, the atheist group’s lawyer, also is a graduate of Brown.

Whatever the explanation, “In God We Trust” was chosen – and after nearly 150 years on the nation’s coinage, it now seems as basic to the American way of life as singing “The Star-Spangled Banner” or reciting the official Pledge of Allegiance.

The mating of the two-cent piece with the chosen motto “In God We Trust,” starting in 1864, seems to have been a marriage of convenience. Chase had been pondering the placement of some such wording on one or more of the nation’s coins ever since receiving Watkinson’s letter. Being a brand-new coin in a brand-new denomination, the two-cent piece made a perfect first vehicle, since use of the motto there would cause no confusion.

Use of “In God We Trust” wasn’t required by Congress when it passed legislation authorizing the two-cent piece on April 22, 1864. The law simply gave the Treasury discretionary authority regarding the inscriptions on the nation’s minor coins.

The authority was extended to gold and silver coins on March 3, 1865 – and, for the first time, “In God We Trust” was specifically mentioned in that follow-up legislation.

In 1908, a law was passed requiring that the words appear on U.S. coins, though the cent, nickel and dime were exempted because of their relatively small size.

The 1908 law resulted directly from an impulsive decision by President Theodore Roosevelt. In 1907, Roosevelt ordered the Mint not to place the words on two new gold coins. Roosevelt believed that the use of God’s name on coinage was blasphemous, and also maintained that such use cheapened the motto because the coins could be used for illegal or immoral purposes. But Congress overruled him and mandated use of the motto after church groups detected the omission, upon the gold coins’ release.

Matthew H. Rothert Sr., an Arkansas businessman and numismatist, played a key role in getting the motto added to U.S. paper money. Rothert noticed in 1953 that the coins on a church collection plate bore the inscription “In God We Trust,” but the paper money did not.

It was Rothert’s belief that “a message about the country’s faith in God could be easily carried throughout the world if it were on United States paper currency.” He conveyed the idea to Treasury Secretary George W. Humphrey and started a letter-writing campaign that resulted in a deluge of letters to federal officials supporting the placement of “In God We Trust” on the nation’s currency.

Public Law 140, requiring use of the motto on all U.S. coins and paper money was introduced in the 84th Congress and signed into law by President Dwight Eisenhower on July 11, 1955. A year later, on July 30, 1956, Eisenhower signed a second bill establishing “In God We Trust” as the national motto. And one year after that, in October 1957, new $1 bills carrying the inscription became the first to enter circulation. By 1966, the words had been added to all of the nation’s paper money.

On July 30, 2006, the 50th anniversary of the 1956 bill recognizing the official status of “In God We Trust” as the national motto, President George W. Bush issued a proclamation reaffirming the appropriateness of this designation.

“Today,” Bush said, “our country stands strong as a beacon of religious freedom. Our citizens, whatever their faith or background, worship freely and millions answer the universal call to love their neighbor and serve a cause greater than self.

“As we commemorate the 50th anniversary of our national motto and remember with thanksgiving God’s mercies throughout our history, we recognize a divine plan that stands above all human plans and continue to seek His will.”

The inclusion of “In God We Trust” on U.S. coins and paper money has long been a point of contention with certain segments of the American populace. It has been challenged in court a number of times as a violation of the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment and of the principle of separation of church and state.

Critics charge that the phrase constitutes “respect for an establishment of religion” by the government. However, appeals courts have consistently held that such traditional, patriotic or ceremonial words do not amount to government sponsorship of a religious exercise or the establishment of a religion.

For a more complete review of the history of “In God We Trust” on U.S. coinage and currency, see my award-winning article on that subject at www.InGodWeTrustOnMoney.com.

 

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Janille Weaver

“In God We Trust” should remain on our currency. I believe this nation was founded and sustained by inspired men and women. Everyone has their own beliefs, and everyone has there own god, but I believe the true and living God supports us, and we must keep Him in our thoughts and minds. It is human nature to forget, but we mustn’t forget. We still need this reminder!

Emily

It doesn’t matter with religion. The name GOD as a creator is a name of peace. One nation UNDER PEACE. Too took this out is setting us up. I cannot be more ashamed at the age we will soon join because of horrible decisions like this being made. this shouldn’t even be a topic. this shouldn’t be a priority. it should just be known that we need and keep peace that we are dominant we are Americans. God represents this way.

MM

Wow. Bunch of crazies replying to this if ever I saw any.

I’m not even from america and I know that it wasn’t founded on christianity, and neither were the founding fathers christian.

There’s a reason america is regarded as one of the stupidest countries in the world.

Randy H.

……..if the “anti-religious” people don’t like the way the nation is……..leave.
It was this way before they were born, and it was this way when their parents were growing up.
They want to whine and cry over a saying on a piece of money……….then leave…….go some place else to live…….there are third world nations that they can go to……..maybe!!

1PEEVEDBOB

If the ‘freedom from religion’ loony’s win this one, the next thing we will see is the ‘planned parenthood’ losers wanting ‘we kill babies’ on money, right?

Just because someone in Washington D.C. has an “R” behind their name, it doesn’t mean they are looking out for the best interests of all Americans…..

bob

I cannot understand WHY the SCOTUS cannot simply dismiss this case, and all others similar to it, on the grounds that “In God We Trust” is our national motto….has been our national motto for several thousand years……..and will continue to be our national motto until hell freezes over and long after. They dismiss all kinds of other nonsensical crap…..why not this?

Richard

This shows how corrupt and immoral our nation has become. Our founding fathers were Christians and had strong christian beliefs but look at our nation now. I blame allot of this on obama and his immoral attitude and beliefs like supporting homosexuals and abortion.

Paul H

Will they be happy if it reads the lie. In Obama We Trust

Karen

How long will we allow the minority to rule the majority? And why does the phrase “In God We Trust” have to be their main focus in their life? They expect us(especially those of us who believe in God) to accept all religions and be accepting of all people, but they are the most bigotted people on this planet! They need to find something more meaningful to put their energy towards, to make this country move forward instead of backward….love it (the USA) or leave it….immedialey!!!!

Ralph Hallock

I fail to understand the liberal thinking that the majority but bow down and submit to their rediculous demands. Does the phrase Ïn God We Trust” hurt or damage them in anyway

Ralph Hallock

I fail to understand the liberal thinking that the majority must bow down and support their rediculous demands. Does the phrase Ïn God We Trust” hurt or damage them in anyway?

Angela M. Rosati

Friends: this is Political Correctness, which is political wrongness! Right?? We need God, maybe the atheists don’t. Doesn’t the majority rule in America?? Atheists have the right to disagree with Christians, but you are in the minority, so keep your big mouths SHUT!!!!

NEVER LET YOURSELF BE PERSUADED THAT ANY ONE GREAT MAN, ANY ONE LEADER, IS NECESSARY TO THE SALVATION OF AMERICA. WHEN AMERICA CONSISTS OF ONE LEADER AND 158 MILLION FOLLOWERS, IT WILL NO LONGER BE AMERICA.

Dwight Eisenhower, 34th U.S. president

Ernie White

They can’t seem to get enough of our money! the people who want to get rid of “In God We Trust” It dose spend for anything & everything they want to buy… This is so petty of something that should not have been brought up in the first place.. Have you ever found anyone who would not take your mony because it has “In God We Trust” ?

bill

Does anybody really believe that obama really “mistakenly” referred to “In God We Trust” as E Pluribus Unum and do they have a clue as to what is going on………….Can he tell you that the cloth in his clothing is so fine that common man can’t see it? And even though you see him walk out naked, you say “what fine clothes you have on”, because you don’t want to be considered to be a common man………..

Dale

How about if we remove the members of the “Freedom From Religion Foundation” along with the other 19 plaintifs from the country? They are free to go to any Communist country of their choosing.

John Reagan

Actually, “E Pluribus Unum” makes much more sense than “In God We Trust”..I think we can all agree with the same sentiment echoed by Abraham Lincoln (“..of the people, by the people..etc) , but in a period when religion is thankfully dying off in the US, can we really trust in God? I sure don’t trust in 2000 year old fairy tales.

Bob Merrill

To all of these good people who have made GOD pleasing statements, THANK YOU, now moving on; someone please give us the names of those “19” other _()&%#$^%#@$^%*% THAT JOINED in the effort to destroy our CONSTITUTION. And yes I did say Constitution, “GOD, is referred to in our Constitution at points of supreme importance to our freedom.
I agree with many of the contributors here in as much as believing that if these atheist do not wish to live in a country
where a vast majority of the people believe in GOD then they should leave, and quit bothering those of us that do. listen up YOUR MAJESTY.

H. Palmer-Ball

When are all of the good ChristianPeople in this country going to wake up and let all of these Moron liberal Jack Asses understand this Country was built with the understanding of In GOD we Trust, brotherhood, and the Love of our Country? All of this bad press keeps on coming out. and we just keep letting it happen. This is a wonderful Place to live and if these dissatisfied people don’t like it. Tell them to pack up and get out. Our Brothers and Sisters have already laid down the law in Australia. How long are we going to Wait?? In God we Trust is part of our heritage. We need to speak up NOW!!!!!

Louann

If “Freedom From Religion Foundation and 19 other plaintiffs who sued the U.S. Treasury” do not like In God we trust” LEAVE, MOVE don’t let the door hit ya on the way out.

Almay

IN GOD I TRUST!! even though the current President would like us to change to IN OBAMA WE TRUST. Those who oppose the truth of God are a minority and should have the decency to respect the will of the majority. If they do not believe in the living God, they usually believe in some other thing that is their god whether they accept the fact. Let the inscription on our money alone.