The debate over "In God We Trust" and "Under God"
Western International University
Cyndy Woods, Ph.D.
March 19, 2006
There has been a great deal of debate since the United States of America became a nation over whether America's current motto, "In God We Trust", and the words "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance are considered a violation of the first amendment. The first amendment says that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion
" (U.S. Constitution, Retrieved from Cornell Law School) Over the years the phrase "separation of church and state" has been used as the interpretation of the first amendment, although none of the words from the phrase are used in the first amendment. What the first amendment means to the public is that the government may not pass a law which establishes an official religion or a law which would prefer one religion over another. The debate over America's motto has been longstanding. There have been many appeals to have "under God" and "In God We Trust" removed. Although a recent hearing at the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals stated it is unconstitutional to force children to recite the pledge of allegiance in school, it is unlikely that the word God will be removed from anything. HISTORY
One theory on the reason "In God We Trust" was adopted as America's motto was due to the increased religious sentiment during the Civil War. From the U.S. Treasury website a letter written to the Secretary of the Treasury, Salmon P. Chase, from reverend M.R. Watkinson on November 13, 1861 states: 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 [sic] 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. (U.S. Treasury) In response Secretary Chase directed the Director of the Mint at Philadelphia on November 20, 1861 to prepare a motto stating: 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. (U.S Treasury) "In God We Trust" first appeared on the two cent coin in 1864 and was established as the United States of America's national motto on July 30, 1956. Currently America's Motto is also the official motto of the state of Florida. God is not only displayed on our money but in the Pledge of Allegiance. "Under God" was added to the Pledge by President Eisenhower in 1954. After which the President proclaimed "From this day forward, the millions of our school children will daily proclaim in every city and town, every village and rural schoolhouse, the dedication of our Nation and our people to the Almighty." (Religious tolerance organization) The Declaration of Independence, which is the document that established the United States of America as a free nation, makes reference to a Creator. Thomas Jefferson wrote in the Declaration "
and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them
that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights
" (Declaration of Independence). From that day in 1776 forward God has been recognized as a patriotic word for Americans. Not all however, believe that the expression is a patriotic phrase.
Ralph Reynolds, president of the Rochester Chapter of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, stated in his article: The use of "In God We Trust" as the motto on our paper currency and coins has been subject to...
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