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Thursday, November 3, 2011

In God We Trust: All others pay heed

The current national motto of the United States of America (“In God We Trust”) has been deemed religious by some, sacrilegious by others, and ceremonial by the legislative powers that be. reports that Rep. Robert Scott, D-3rd, recently protested “a vote by the U.S. House in support of a resolution by Rep. J. Randy Forbes, R-4th, to reaffirm ‘In God We Trust’ as the nation’s official motto.”  Besides his stated dissatisfaction with taking precious Congressional time to debate a motto that is “under no threat of attack,” Scott also claimed that the motto’s religious nature violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.  When referring to this clause, Scott added:  It also prohibits government from unduly preferring religion over non-religion…

The courts couldn’t agree less.  Any “separation of church and state” type cases concerning this national motto have been shot down under the guise that the widespread use of this governmental “mantra” has “nothing whatsoever to do with the establishment of religion.”  This last quote comes directly from the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit regarding the 1970 Aronow v. United States case.  According to Wikipedia, the Ninth Circuit Court also had this to say about the national motto:  Its use is of patriotic or ceremonial character and bears no true resemblance to a governmental sponsorship of a religious exercise.

A little bit of historical digging might prove otherwise.  For nearly a century, the country had chugged along with the use of Thomas Jefferson’s original motto:  E Pluribus Unum (“One Unity Composed of Many Parts”).  Then, in 1861, the Reverend Mark R. Watkinson wrote a letter to then-Secretary of the Treasury Salmon P. Chase.  This letter contained phrases such as “the recognition of the Almighty God in some form on our coins.”  Watkinson even appealed to Chase on the basis that Chase was “probably a Christian,” and therefore would not want succeeding generations to think that the United States had been a “heathen nation.”

This must have struck a religious (political? economic?) chord because Chase subsequently instructed then-Director of the Mint James Pollock to “prepare a motto, declaring ‘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.’”

James Pollock was the perfect audience for such sentiments.  He was also a member of the eleven-denomination-strong Protestant group called the National Reform Association.  According to, the aim of this group was to “reform” the Constitution by amending it to indicate that the United States was a “Christian nation.”  The group’s rewritten Preamble to the Constitution included these italicized words:  “We, the people of the United States, humbly acknowledging Almighty God as the Source of all authority and power in civil government, the Lord Jesus Christ as the ruler among
the nations, His revealed will as the supreme law of the land, in order to constitute a Christian government…”

Perhaps, then, there is a strong tie between our national motto and religion…  Years later, then-President Theodore Roosevelt certainly thought so.  In fact, he tried to stop the inclusion of this motto on United States money because he believed “it was blasphemous for such a motto to appear on mere coins…”

As for President Obama?  He, too, chimed in by stating this opinion regarding the recent Forbes-bill vote:  That’s not putting people back to work.  I trust in God, but God wants to see us help ourselves by putting people back to work. 


Copyright November 3, 2011 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

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