In God we trust
"In God We Trust" is the official motto of the United States. It was adopted as the nation's motto in 1956 as an alternative or replacement to the unofficial motto of E pluribus unum, which was adopted when the Great Seal of the United States was created and adopted in 1782. Many people (including atheists) have expressed objections to its use, and have sought to have the religious reference removed from the currency, claiming that it violates the First Amendment.
"In God we trust" first appeared on U.S. coins in 1864 and has appeared on paper currency since 1957. A law passed in a Joint Resolution by the 84th Congress (P.L. 84-140) and approved by President Dwight Eisenhower on July 30, 1956 declared IN GOD WE TRUST must appear on currency. This phrase was first used on paper money in 1957, when it appeared on the one-dollar silver certificate. The first paper currency bearing the phrase entered circulation on October 1, 1957 
The phrase appears to have originated in "The Star-Spangled Banner", written during the War of 1812. The fourth stanza includes the phrase, "And this be our motto: 'In God is our Trust.'" According to Ted Alexander, Chief Historian at Antietam National Battlefield, the contracted "In God We Trust" was first used by the 125th Pennsylvania Infantry as a battle cry on September 17, 1862, during the Battle of Antietam of the American Civil War.
The Reverend M. R. Watkinson, in a letter dated November 13, 1861, petitioned the Treasury Department to add a statement recognizing "Almighty God in some form in our coins" in order to "relieve us from the ignominy of heathenism." At least part of the motivation was to declare that God was on the Union side of the Civil War. Treasury Secretary Salmon P. Chase acted on this proposal and directed the then-Philadelphia Director of the Mint, James Pollock, to begin drawing up possible designs that would include the religious phrase. Chase chose his favorite designs and presented a proposal to Congress for the new designs in late 1863.
As Chase was preparing his recommendation to Congress, 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. Such legislation was introduced and passed on April 22, 1864, allowing the Secretary of the Treasury to authorize the inclusion of the phrase on one-cent and two-cent coins.
An Act of Congress passed on March 3, 1865, 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." In 1873, Congress passed the Coinage Act, granting that the Secretary of the Treasury "may cause the motto IN GOD WE TRUST to be inscribed on such coins as shall admit of such motto."
The use of "In God we trust" has been interrupted. The motto disappeared from the five-cent coin in 1883, and did not reappear until production of the Jefferson nickel began in 1938. However, at least two other coins minted in every year in the interim still bore the motto, including the Morgan dollar and the Seated Liberty half dollar. In 1908, Congress made it mandatory that the phrase be printed on all coins upon which it had previously appeared. This decision was motivated after a public outcry following the release of a $20 coin which did not bear the 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. Since 1938, all US coins have borne the motto.
In 1956, the nation was at a particularly tense time in the Cold War, and the United States wanted to distinguish itself from the Soviet Union, which promoted state atheism. As a result, the 84th Congress passed a joint resolution "declaring IN GOD WE TRUST the national motto of the United States." The law was signed by President Eisenhower on July 30, 1956, and the motto was progressively added to paper money over a period from 1957 to 1966. (Public Law 84-851) The United States Code at 36 U.S.C. § 302, now states: "'In God we trust' is the national motto."
In 2006, on the 50th anniversary of its adoption, the Senate reaffirmed "In God we trust" as the official national motto of the United States of America. In 2011 the House of Representatives passed an additional resolution reaffirming "In God we trust" as the official motto of the United States, in a 396-9 vote. According to a 2003 joint poll by USA Today, CNN, and Gallup, 90% of Americans support the inscription "In God We Trust" on U.S. coins.
The phrase has been incorporated in many hymns and religio-patriotic songs. During the American Civil War, the 125th Pennsylvania Infantry for the Union Army assumed the motto "In God we trust" in early August 1862.
In Judaism and Christianity, the official motto "In God we trust" resounds with several verses from the Bible, including Psalm 118:8, Psalm 40:3, Psalm 73:28, and Proverbs 29:25. In Islam the phrase's equivalent is Tawakkul 'ala Allah. Melkote Ramaswamy, an Hindu American scholar, writes that the presence of the phrase "In God we trust" on American currency is a reminder that "there is God everywhere, whether we are conscious or not."
After the September 11 attacks in 2001, many public schools across the United States posted "In God We Trust" framed posters in their "libraries, cafeterias and classrooms." The American Family Association supplied several 11-by-14-inch posters to school systems and vowed to defend any legal challenges to the displaying of the posters.
Advocates of separation of church and state have questioned the legality of this motto, asserting that it is a violation of the United States Constitution, prohibiting the government from passing any law respecting the establishment of religion. Religious accommodationists state that this entrenched practice has not historically presented any constitutional difficulty, is not coercive, and does not prefer one religious denomination over another.
"In God we trust" as a national motto and on U.S. currency has been the subject of numerous unsuccessful lawsuits. The motto was first challenged in Aronow v. United States in 1970, but the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled: "It is quite obvious that the national motto and the slogan on coinage and currency 'In God We Trust' has nothing whatsoever to do with the establishment of religion. Its use is of patriotic or ceremonial character and bears no true resemblance to a governmental sponsorship of a religious exercise." The decision was cited in Elk Grove Unified School District v. Newdow, a 2004 case on the Pledge of Allegiance. These acts of "ceremonial deism" are "protected from Establishment Clause scrutiny chiefly because they have lost through rote repetition any significant religious content." In Zorach v. Clauson (1952), the Supreme Court also held that the nation's "institutions presuppose a Supreme Being" and that government recognition of God does not constitute the establishment of a state church as the Constitution's authors intended to prohibit.
Society and culture
- An urban myth (wrongly) suggests that it was omitted from new U.S. dollar coins.
- Marty Feldman's satirical comedy In God We Tru$t (1980).
- The film They Live plays on the idea. Special sunglasses allow the wearers to see simple hidden messages instead of the signs they see without them. Advertising is seen as "OBEY", "CONSUME" and "MARRY AND REPRODUCE". Dollar bills are all marked "THIS IS YOUR GOD".
- A central element to the plot of the 1994 version of Miracle on 34th Street. In the final scenes of the movie, the judge decides that, since the Department of the Treasury can have faith in God with no hard evidence, the State of New York can have faith in Santa Claus with no hard evidence as well.
- The Midwestern humorist and New York City radio personality Jean Shepherd, compiled many of his essays, previously published in Playboy Magazine, under the title "In God We Trust (All Others Pay Cash)" (1966)
The states of Indiana, Kentucky, Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina manufacture optional license plate variants with this slogan on it. It may be selected in lieu of the standard license plate for no additional fee.
Notes and references
- Annual report - American Civil Liberties Union, Volume 5. American Civil Liberties Union. 1951. Retrieved 1 May 2012.
In 1956, an official national motto was adopted, "In God We Trust," replacing the unofficial "E Pluribus Unum."
- Refiguring Mass Communication: A History. University of Illinois Press. 24 March 2010. Retrieved 1 May 2012.
He held high the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the nation's unofficial motto, e pluribus unum, even as he was recoiling from the party system in which he had long participated.
- 12 Mar 2010 (2010-03-12). "Atheist in battle to remove 'In God We Trust' from US currency". London: Telegraph. Retrieved 2014-02-04.
- U.S. Department of the Treasury. (2011) "History of 'In God We Trust'" www.treasury.gov. Last accessed 02-19-2012.
- U.S. Department of the Treasury. (2011) "History of 'In God We Trust'" www.treasury.gov. Last accessed 11-6-2011.
- As shown on the Córdoba (bank notes and coins); see for example Banco Central de Nicaragua
- Chase, Salmon P (December 9, 1863). Letter to James Pollock. Document # RG 104_UD 87-A_Folder In God We Trust 1861_Part1 (National Archives and Records Administration). p. 11.
- Alexander, Ted (2011). The Battle of Antietam. Charleston, SC: The History Press. p. 76. ISBN 978-1-60949-179-6.
- 125th PA Vol. Infantry: IN GOD WE TRUST. YouTube. 28 June 2012.
- United States (1897). Congressional Serial Set. US: Government Printing Office, p. 260.
- "History of 'In God We Trust'". treasury.gov.
- Duncan, Ann W. (2008). Religion, Rhetoric, and Ritual in the U.S. Government," Church-state Issues in America Today. Westport CT: Greenwood Publishing Group, pp. 77.
- " History of "In God We Trust", US Treasury
- "U.S. Treasury - Fact Sheet on the History of "In God We Trust"". United States Department of the Treasury. Retrieved 2011-05-23.
- Congressional Record, 1956, p. 13917, via NonBeliever.org
- "10 Interesting Facts About Theodore Roosevelt". Republicanpresidents.net. Retrieved 2014-02-04.
- Religion and the Law in America by Scott A. Merriman, published by ABC-CLIO, page 281
- Steven B. Epstein, "Rethinking the Constitutionality of Ceremonial Deism" Columbia Law Review, Vol. 96, No. 8. (Dec., 1996), p. 2083–2174, quoting the peroration (abridged here) of the speech by Charles Edward Bennett, sponsor in the House, the only speech in either House of Congress on the subject. President Eisenhower and W. Randolph Burgess, Deputy to the Treasury for Monetary Affairs, had approved of the legislation! 101 Congressional Record pp. 4384 (quoted), 7796. (1955)
- Felicia Sonmez (1 November 2011). "Social issues return to fore with 'In God We Trust' resolution". The Washington Post. Retrieved 7 November 2011.
In 2006, on the 50th anniversary of its adoption, the Senate reaffirmed 'In God We Trust' as the official national motto of the United States," Forbes said in a statement announcing the vote. "Tomorrow, the House of Representatives will have the same opportunity to reaffirm our national motto and directly confront a disturbing trend of inaccuracies and omissions, misunderstandings of church and state, rogue court challenges, and efforts to remove God from the public domain by unelected bureaucrats.
- Jennifer Steinhauer (3 November 2011). "In God We Trust, With the House's Help". The New York Times. Retrieved 7 November 2011.
Citing a crisis of national identity and mass confusion among Americans about their nation's motto, the House on Tuesday voted on a resolution "reaffirming 'In God We Trust' as the official motto of the United States."
- Todd Starnes (3 November 2011). "See Which Congressmen Voted Against 'In God We Trust'". Fox News. Retrieved 7 November 2011.
The House of Representatives passed a bi-partisan resolution Tuesday night reaffirming "In God We Trust" as the official motto of the United States. The 396-9 vote came at the request of Rep. Randy Forbes (R-VA).
- "USA TODAY/CNN/Gallup Poll results". USA Today. 2011. Retrieved 15 November 2011.
C. The inscription "In God We Trust" on U.S. coins; 2003 Sep 19-21; Approve 90; Disapprove 8; No opinion 2
- The Regimental Committee, 125th PA Volunteers, 1862–1863 (2009). Regimental History. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Library. pp. 150–152. ISBN 9-781112-135705.
- Alexander, ted (2011). The Battle of Antietam. Charleston, SC: The History Press. p. 76. ISBN 978-1-60949-179-6.
- "In God We Trust: The Motto". All About History. Retrieved 2013-02-26.
- Ion Grumeza (4 Aug 2010). The Roots of Balkanization: Eastern Europe C.E. 500-1500. University Press of America. p. 17. ISBN 9780761851356.
- P. Koslowski (30 Nov 2001). Koslowski, P., ed. The Origin and the Overcoming of Evil and Suffering in the World Religions (illustrated ed.). Springer Science & Business Media. p. 45. ISBN 9781402001871.
- Pradip Ninan Thomas (30 Jul 2012). Thomas, Pradip Ninan; Lee, Philip, eds. Global and Local Televangelism. Palgrave Macmillan. p. 27. ISBN 9781137264817.
- Ramaswamy, Melkote (2012-08-11). "Faith/Values | Indianapolis Star". indystar.com. Retrieved 2014-02-04.
- "USATODAY.com - 'In God We Trust' pressed for schools". usatoday.com. 19 February 2002.
- Richard H. Fallon (2004). The Dynamic Constitution: an Introduction to Americans Constitutional Law. Cambridge University Press. p. 60. ISBN 9780521600781.
"Strict separationists" believe that the government has no business supporting religious beliefs or institutions in any way - for example, by providing tax breaks to churches, assisting parochial schools, including prayers or benedictions in public ceremonies, or inscribing "In God We Trust" on the currency. Religious accommodationists can well explain why certain entrenched social practices (such as the inscription of "In God We Trust" on the currency) were not historically perceived as presenting constitutional difficulties: The relevant practices are not coercive and do not prefer one narrow sect over another.
- Markoe, Lauren (2014-05-29). "Atheists Lose Latest Battle To Remove 'In God We Trust' From U.S. Currency". huffingtonpost.com (Religion News Service). Retrieved 2014-10-09.
- Aronow, 432 F.2d at 243.
- LYNCH v. DONNELLY, 465 U.S. 668 (1984) U.S. Supreme Court
- ABA Journal Sep 1962.
Much more recently, in 1952, speaking through Mr. Justice Douglas in Zorach v. Clauson, 343 U.S. 306, 313, the Supreme Court repeated the same sentiments, saying: We are a religious people whose institutions presuppose a Supreme Being. Mr. Justice Brewer in the Holy Trinity case, supra, mentioned many of these evidences of religion, and Mr. Justice Douglas in the Zorach case referred to ... [P]rayers in our legislative halls; the appeals to the Almighty in the messages of the Chief Executive; the proclamation making Thanksgiving Day a holiday; "So help me God" in our courtroom oaths - these and ... other references to the Almighty ... run through our laws, our public rituals, our ceremonies ... the supplication with which the Court opens each session: "God save the United States and this Honorable Court" (312-313). To this list may be added tax exemption of churches, chaplaincies in the armed forces, the "Pray for Peace" postmark, the widespread observance of Christmas holidays, and, in classrooms, singing the fourth stanza of America which is prayer invoking the protection of God, and the words "in God is our trust" as found in the National Anthem, and the reciting of the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag, modified by an Act of Congress of June 14, 1954, to included the words "under God".
- "ROOSEVELT DROPPED 'IN GOD WE TRUST'; President Says Such a Motto on Coin Is Irreverence, Close to Sacrilege. NO LAW COMMANDS ITS USE He Trusts Congress Will Not Direct Him to Replace the Exalted Phrase That Invited Constant Levity". The New York Times. November 14, 1907. Retrieved 26 August 2010.
- "Historic Change", Snopes, http://www.snopes.com/politics/religion/dollarcoin.asp
- "Empire of the Sunglasses: How 'They Live' Took on Republicans and Won", by Joshua Rothkopf, Rolling Stone
- Kansas Department of Revenue - Kansas In God We Trust License Plate
- "'In God We Trust' stickers would be free". ajc.com.
- "Lexington, KY local and state news by the Lexington Herald-Leader - Kentucky.com". kentucky.com.
- "South Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles: Plate Gallery". scdmvonline.com.
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- Final answer? Not quite as star gets second chance to play for a million - article in The Guardian about a disputed quiz question about the motto of the United States.
- Local documentary on origin of phrase