In God We Trust

In God We Trust

In God We Trust is the official national motto of the United States and the U.S. state of Florida. The motto first appeared on a United States coin in 1864, but "In God We Trust" did not become the official U.S. national motto until after the passage of an Act of Congress in 1956.


The motto "E Pluribus Unum" ("from many, one") was approved for use on the Great Seal of the United States in 1782. It still appears on coins and currency, and was widely considered the national motto "de facto". However, by 1956 it had not been established so by legislation as the "official" "national motto". The "Congressional Record" of 1956 reads: "At the present time the United States has no national motto. The committee deems it most appropriate that 'In God we trust' be so designated as U.S. national motto." [ "Congressional Record", 1956, p. 13917] , via]

One possible origin of "In God We Trust" is the final stanza of "The Star-Spangled Banner". Written in 1814 by Francis Scott Key (and later adopted as the U.S. national anthem), the song contains an early reference to a variation of the phrase: "...And this be our motto: 'In God is our trust'." [ [ 50th Anniversary of Our National Motto, "In God We Trust," 2006] , Proclamation Issued by President Bush, White House.] An alternative origin could be through John Milton Hay who was Abraham Lincoln's personal secretary. Hay was a graduate of Brown University whose motto, "In Deo Speramus", is Latin for "In God We Hope".

Use on currency

As excerpted from the United States Treasury Department's public education website:citation
title =Fact Sheets
url =
publisher = U.S. Department of the Treasury
chapter = History of 'In God We Trust'
chapter-url =
accessdate = 2008-01-14

The motto "In God We Trust" was placed on United States coins largely because of the increased religious sentiment existing during the American Civil War. Secretary of the Treasury Salmon P. Chase received many appeals from devout Christians throughout the country, urging that the United States recognize God on United States coins. From Treasury Department records, it appears that the first such appeal came in a letter dated November 13, 1861. It was written to Secretary Salmon P. Chase by Reverend M. R. Watkinson, Minister of the Gospel from Ridley Township, Pennsylvania, and read:

Quotation|Dear Sir: You are about to submit your annual report to the Congress respecting the affairs of the national finances.

One fact touching our currency has hitherto been seriously overlooked. I mean the recognition of the Almighty God in some form on our coins.

You are probably a Christian. What if our Republic were not shattered beyond reconstruction? Would not the antiquaries of succeeding centuries rightly reason from our past that we were a heathen nation? What I propose is that instead of the goddess of liberty we shall have next inside the 13 stars a ring inscribed with the words PERPETUAL UNION; within the ring the allseeing eye, crowned with a halo; beneath this eye the American flag, bearing in its field stars equal to the number of the States united; in the folds of the bars the words GOD, LIBERTY, LAW.

This would make a beautiful coin, to which no possible citizen could object. This would relieve us from the ignominy of heathenism. This would place us openly under the Divine protection we have personally claimed. From my heart I have felt our national shame in disowning God as not the least of our present national disasters. To you first I address a subject that must be agitated.

As a result, Secretary Chase instructed James Pollock, Director of the Mint at Philadelphia, to prepare a motto, in a letter dated November 20, 1861:

Quotation|Dear Sir: 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.

You will cause a device to be prepared without unnecessary delay with a motto expressing in the fewest and tersest words possible this national recognition.

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 Congress. In December 1863, the Director of the Mint submitted designs for a new one-cent coin, two-cent coin, and three-cent coin to Secretary Chase for approval. He proposed that upon the designs either "OUR COUNTRY", "OUR GOD" or "GOD, OUR TRUST" should appear as the motto on the coins. In a letter to the Mint Director on December 9, 1863, Secretary Chase stated:

Congress passed the Coinage Act (1864) on April 22, 1864. This legislation changed the composition of the one-cent coin and authorized the minting of the two-cent coin. The Mint Director was directed to develop the designs for these coins for final approval of the Secretary. "In God We Trust" first appeared on the 1864 two-cent coin.

Another Act of the United States Congress passed on March 3, 1865 which 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." Under the Act, the motto was placed on the gold Double Eagle coin, the gold Eagle coin, and the gold Half Eagle coin. It was also placed on the silver dollar coin, the half dollar coin and the quarter dollar coin, and on the nickel five-cent coin beginning in 1866. Later, Congress passed the Fourth Coinage Act of February 12, 1873. It also said that the Secretary "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 not been uninterrupted. The motto disappeared from the five-cent coin in 1883, and did not reappear until production of the Jefferson nickel began in 1938. Since 1938, all United States coins bear the inscription. Later, the motto was found missing from the new design of the gold Double Eagle coin and the gold Eagle coin shortly after they appeared in 1907. In response to a general demand, Congress ordered it restored, and the Act of May 18, 1908, made it mandatory on all coins upon which it had previously appeared. Therefore, the motto was not mandatory on the one-cent and five-cent coins, but it could be placed on them by the Secretary of the Treasury or the Mint Director with the Secretary's approval.

American presidents such as Theodore Roosevelt strongly disapproved of the idea of evoking God within the context of a "cheap" political motto. In a letter to William Boldly on November 11, 1907, [ President Roosevelt wrote] : "My own feeling in the matter is due to my very firm conviction that to put such a motto on coins, or to use it in any kindred manner, not only does no good but does positive harm, and is in effect irreverence, which comes dangerously close to sacrilege... it seems to me eminently unwise to cheapen such a motto by use on coins, just as it would be to cheapen it by use on postage stamps, or in advertisements."

Despite historical opposition, the motto has been in continuous use on the one-cent coin since 1909 and on the ten-cent dime 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.

"In God We Trust" was first used on paper money in 1957 when it appeared on the one-dollar Silver Certificate. The first paper currency bearing the motto entered circulation on October 1, 1957. The Bureau of Engraving and Printing (BEP) was converting to the dry intaglio printing process. During this conversion, it gradually included "In God We Trust" in the back design of all classes and denominations of currency.

As a part of a comprehensive modernization program, the BEP successfully developed and installed new high-speed rotary intaglio printing presses in 1957. These allowed BEP to print currency by the dry intaglio process, 32 notes to the sheet. One-dollar silver certificates were the first denomination printed on the new high-speed presses. They included "In God We Trust" as part of the reverse design as BEP adopted new dies according to the law. The motto also appeared on one-dollar silver certificates of the 1957-A and 1957-B series.

One-dollar silver certificates series 1935, 1935-A, 1935-B, 1935-C, 1935-D, 1935-E, 1935-F, 1935-G, and 1935-H were all printed on the older flat-bed presses by the wet intaglio process. P.L. 84-140 recognized that an enormous expense would be associated with immediately replacing the costly printing plates. The law allowed BEP to gradually convert to the inclusion of "In God We Trust" on the currency. Accordingly, the motto is not found on series 1935-E and 1935-F one-dollar notes. By September 1961, "In God We Trust" had been added to the back design of the Series 1935-G notes. Some early printings of this series do not bear the motto. "In God We Trust" appears on all series 1935-H one-dollar silver certificates.

On March 7, 2007, the U.S Mint reported an unknown amount of new George Washington dollar coins mistakenly struck without the edge inscriptions, including "In God We Trust." These coins have been in circulation since February 15, 2007 and it has been estimated by some experts that at least 50,000 of them were put in circulation. The coin rapidly became a collector's item as well as a source for conspiracy theorists. [Citation
date=March 7, 2007
title=A Statement from the United States Mint
publisher=U.S. Department of the Treasury
] [Citation
title=Coins circulating without ‘In God We Trust’: U.S. Mint admits to the goof with the new George Washington dollar
date=March 8, 2007

Use in individual states

"In God We Trust" is found on the flag of Georgia, flag of Florida, and the Seal of Florida. It was first adopted by the state of Georgia for use on flags in 2001, and subsequently included on the Georgia flag of 2003. Starting in 2007, the phrase can also be found on the license plates of Indiana, North Carolina, South Carolina and Ohio (it can be selected among offered designs).

It became the official state motto of Florida in 2006 under a law signed by Governor Jeb Bush. [] On May 28, 2008, Governor Charlie Crist signed into law Senate Bill 734, which amended the state's specialty license plates law (320.08056) to include an "In God We Trust" automobile license plate as an option for residents.

Adoption as National Motto

A law was passed by the 84th United States Congress (P.L. 84-140) and approved by the President on July 30, 1956. President Dwight D. Eisenhower approved a joint resolution declaring "In God We Trust" the national motto of the United States. The same Congress had required, in the previous year, that the words appear on all currency, as a Cold War measure: "In these days when imperialistic and materialistic Communism seeks to attack and destroy freedom, it is proper" to "remind all of us of this self-evident truth" that "as long as this country trusts in God, it will prevail." [Steven B. Epstein, " [ Rethinking the Constitutionality of Ceremonial Deism] " Columbia Law Review, Vol. 96, No. 8. (Dec., 1996), pp. 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, Under Secretary of the Treasury for Monetary Affairs, had approved of the legislation. 101 Congressional Record pp. 4384 (quoted), 7796. (1955)]

Legal status

Use of the motto on circulating coinage is required by law. While several laws come into play, the act of May 18, 1908 is most often cited as requiring the motto (even though the cent and nickel were excluded from that law, and the nickel did not have the motto added until 1938). Since 1938, all coins have borne the motto. The use of the motto was permitted, but not required, by an 1873 law. The motto was added to paper money over a period from 1957 to 1966. [ [ History of the Motto "In God We Trust"] ]

Aronow v. United States and other constitutional objections under the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment have been rejected by the courts.


The motto has caused some controversy [ [ A Half Century After It First Appeared on the Dollar Bill, “In God We Trust” Still Stirs Opposition] . Pew Research Center, Sept. 12, 2007.] but it is still widely popular among Americans. According to a 2003 Gallup Poll, 90% of Americans approve of the inscription on U.S. coins. [ [ Approve or disapprove "The inscription "In God We Trust" on U.S. coins"] Gallup Poll, Sept. 19-21, 2003.] The Establishment Clause of the First Amendment states that congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion. Critics object to the motto's placement on money because they believe that federal funding is being used to endorse the religious belief in God. The Supreme Court has upheld the motto because it has "lost through rote repetition any significant religious content." [ [ Lynch v. Donnelly] , 465 U.S. 668] ; so-called acts of "ceremonial deism" that have lost their "history, character, and context". [Elk Grove Unified School District et al v. Newdow, 542 U.S. 1] Constitutionalists object to sworn judiciaries regarding the United States Constitution as secondary to personal opinion and subjective historical analysis. [ [ Atheist protests `In God We Trust' posting] ] [ [ Judge turns down atheist's suit challenging 'In God We Trust'] ] Some activists have been known to cross out the motto on paper money as a form of protest. [cite web | title = "In God We Trust"--Stamping Out Religion On National Currency | work = Flashline | publisher = American Atheists | date = 1999-03-15 | url = | accessdate = 2008-01-22 ] The legal ramifications are unclear as it is illegal to deface currency "with intent to render such item(s) unfit to be reissued" [ [ Defacement of Currency] . Bureau of Engraving and Printing.] .

Outside of constitutional objections, United States President Theodore Roosevelt took issue with placing the motto on coinage as he considered it sacrilegious to put the name of God on money. [ [ Religious Tolerance - The US national mottos] ]

ee also

*Ceremonial deism
*Separation of church and state
*The United States dollar
*Gott mit uns

U.S. Court Cases

*"Aronow v. United States"
*"Elk Grove Unified School District v. Newdow"
*"Lynch v. Donnelly"



*USGovernment |sourceURL= [ Fact Sheets: Currency & Coins] , "U.S. Department of the Treasury"
* [ "The U.S. National Mottos: Their history & constitutionality"]

External links

* [ When and why was "In God We Trust" placed on U.S. currency]
* [,3604,1685668,00.html 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.

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