There is a long-standing debate over the phrase “In God We Trust” on coins and currency. Those who support the use of the name argue that the nation was built upon God and that removal of any mention of God’s name would be a betrayal of American values. In reality, it is the opposite. The phrase “In God We Trust” simultaneously corrupts the Constitution and demeans religious values.
One of the founding ideals of this nation is the separation of church and state, made evident in the First Amendment of the Constitution, which states “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." This separation was upheld throughout the early years of the country following the American Revolution.
While the phrase “In God We Trust” slowly began to appear on coins in the mid-19th century in the midst of the religious fervor surrounding the Civil War, it wasn’t until the 1950s that Congress passed a law requiring the motto to be on all coins and currency. This was around the same time that the words “under God” were added to the Pledge of Allegiance. The timing is no coincidence. In the 1950s, America was at the height of the Cold War and McCarthy’s witch hunts were well underway.
God’s name was not added due to religious sentiment or out of a dedication to perceived ideals of the intentions of the founding fathers, but instead was a strategic political move to reaffirm America’s anti-socialist stance. By expressing a heartfelt belief and devotion to God, the U.S. set itself apart from religion-condemning socialist doctrine.
In fact, the U.S. has stated on more than one occasion that God should not be interpreted as a religious figure. In 1970, the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit made the following ruling: "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."
Fourteen years later, the Supreme Court ruled that the phrase “In God We Trust” has “lost through rote repetition any significant religious content."
This relegation of God to a mere ceremonial character rather than an all-powerful deity should be more offensive to supporters of this phrase than the suggestion of removing any mention of God. The inclusion of the name trivializes religious values and undermines the Constitution by undercutting the spiritual emphasis of God and using the name in direct violation of the First Amendment.
God’s name should be removed not only to maintain a separation of church and state but also to allow people to worship however they choose rather than be bombarded with state-sponsored ideology. There is a reason that the founding fathers wanted to keep religion out of the state and the state out of religion. Fusing the two weakens religion as well as the Constitution and this should not be tolerated. Religion and a belief in God are personal matters which have no business in government.
Photo Credit: Vik Nanda