THE U.S. NATIONAL MOTTOS:
Basis, suitability and proposed uses
Biblical basis for the "In God We Trust" motto:
From the King James Version of the Bible:
||2 Kings 18:21-22 "But if ye say unto me, We trust in the LORD our God: is not that he, whose high places and whose altars Hezekiah hath taken away, and hath said to Judah and Jerusalem, Ye shall worship before this altar in Jerusalem?"
||2 Samuel 22:3 " The God of my rock; in him will I trust: he is my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my high tower, and my refuge, my
saviour; thou savest me from violence."
||Psalm 31:6 "I have hated them that regard lying vanities: but I
trust in the LORD."
||Psalm 56:11 "In God have I put my trust: I will not be afraid what man can do unto me."
||Isaiah 12:2 "Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and not be afraid: for the LORD JEHOVAH is my strength and my song; he also is become my salvation."
||1 Timothy 6:17 "Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not highminded, nor
trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to
Is the current motto suitable?
Some random thoughts on the suitability of the motto "In God We Trust":
||A public opinion survey would probably show that he motto has overwhelming
support by American adults.
show that 95% or more of adults believe in some form of deity or some form
of "higher power," and that about
American adults are Christian. The motto matches their beliefs closely.
||The motto is, in fact, untrue. An accurate statement would be "In God,
Some of Us Trust." Followers of
some traditions within
do not believe in an intrusive, omni-present personal deity. Thus they could
not trust such a God.
||The motto refers to "God," not to Gods, a Goddess or Goddesses.
Thus it marginalizes followers of most
Wicca and other
who believe that more than one deity exists and who believe that both male and female
||The motto does appear to promote theistic religions as superior to those
non-theistic religions as listed above. It also seems to promotes a religious
approach to life in favor of a secular lifestyle. Various conservative
Christian organizations, such as the American Family Association, Family
Research Council, Focus on the Family, etc. appear to agree that the motto is
religious; they have enthusiastically supported the expansion of its use. The
motto would appear to be in
violation of the principle of separation of church and state. Yet it has, so
far, been consistently declared constitutional by federal courts, because it
is not seen as promoting religion.
||It would also appear to be an undesirable motto, in comparison to its
predecessor. "E Pluribus Unum" ("One [nation] out of many [parts]")
emphasizes the unity of the America, as formed from many states. It might even
be re-interpreted as the creation of a single, peaceful state out of a diverse
group of people who differ in matters of religion, race, language, gender,
ethnicity and other factors. "In God We Trust" divides Americans into
two groups: theists who believe in a single, male deity and everyone else. It
marginalizes the latter and seems to imply that they are un-patriotic and
un-American. This would seem to conflict with the prime justification for a
motto, which is to create unity. 1
Recent attempts to expand the uses of the motto:
Many conservative Christian individuals and organization promote the increased
acknowledgement of Christianity in the public square. They point out what they
see as a decline in decency, school violence and civil behavior since compulsory prayer in
public schools was declared unconstitutional. They believe that they may be able
to change this trend by altering the policies
of public schools to reinstate compulsory morning prayer, add Bible teaching
in the classroom, read prayers during graduation ceremonies and recite prayers at sports
Secularists and others who promote the separation of church and state
generally oppose the expansion of the role of religion in public schools and
government facilities. They believe that most students will interpret the motto as promoting
belief in the Judeo-Christian God, thus marginalizing
non-Judeo-Christian students. Marginalization of students is one of the main
causes of school violence and killings.
This difference of opinion has produced conflicts over the national motto:
||2000-MAY-10: American Family Association distributes
motto posters: The American Family Association (AFA)
has filled orders for over 1,800 copies of their "In God
We Trust" poster. In addition, they have distributed
almost 250 framed posters to elected officials on Capitol Hill.
The president of AFA, Don Wildmon, commented: "Our
national motto reflects the beliefs which our forefathers held,
that trust in God is the bedrock precept of this noble
experiment we call America. The ACLU and liberal judges may not
allow the posting of the Ten Commandments, but they cannot
prohibit the posting of our national motto! Students walking
down the hall will see and read this motto, and they may even be
influenced by it. That is something the Supreme Court was afraid
would happen when they made posting the Ten Commandments illegal."
||2000-JUL-6: Colorado: Posting of the motto in public
schools: The Colorado State Board of Education voted 5-1
to approve a non-binding resolution that encouraged "appropriate
display" of the "In God we trust" motto in
public schools and other public buildings. This is believed to be
the first such resolution by a state board in the U.S. The vote was divided on
party lines: 5 Republicans were in favor, 1 Democrat was opposed.
Some comments were:
|| Board Chairman Clair Orr, the main sponsor of the
resolution, said: "The words we pass on to our young
can shape their destiny and the destiny of this land. Our
nation has lost its way on the road of virtue and moral
character the very fabric needed for a people to govern
themselves on the foundation of liberty and justice."
||Sue Armstrong, executive director of the Colorado
American Civil Liberties Union, commented: "This is
the god of the Christians and Jews...The arguments go back to religious motivation. If
we're talking about teaching a heritage to our students, then let's
put it in our history lessons." " She said that
the ACLU might sue if the motto is displayed in schools.
||Gully Stanford, the Democrat who voted against the
resolution, said: "We are a much more pluralistic
nation than we were at the founding of our nation. In this
pluralistic society, we must question the proclamation of
one belief to the exclusion of another...Clair seeks to
revive the religious significance of the motto, and in doing
so I think he is proposing religious preference in our
schools and that crosses the line of separation of church
||Joseph Conn, spokesman for Americans United for Separation of
Church and State had urged board members to reject the
resolution: "They seem to be trying to inject religion into
public schools in an inappropriate way. What they are doing is
giving bad advice to local school districts. If they follow the
advice they could easily end up in court."
||Rabbi Steven Foster, a member of the Denver Interfaith
Alliance, said: "I see this as part of a plan by the
religious right...If they can't get the Ten Commandments,
this year they will settle for 'In God we trust,' and next
year they will go for the Ten Commandments." 3,4
||2000-AUG-11: Colorado: More on school
posting: The Jefferson County School District in Colorado voted
unanimously to not post the "In God we Trust" motto
in its 145 schools. The American Atheists,
the ACLU, the Anti-Defamation League, and seven private
individuals attended the board meeting in opposition to the motto.
||Margie Wait, Colorado State Director of American Atheists stated, in
part: "Posting the motto in the schools will send the
message to those who do not share a belief in the Judeo-Christian
God that they are second class citizens; that they somehow deserve
to be less successful in life than their believing classmates."
||A local Unitarian minister said, "I urge all of us here to
do religious education, but not in [sic] the walls of our public
||Scott Schneider, a parent, suggested that
teachers confine their activity to teaching secular subjects and not
be drawn into religion: "No one is better qualified than me
[sic] to provide religious instruction."
||Two individuals favored the
motto in order to promote their religious beliefs or to halt
the alleged moral decline of the nation. One parent from the nearby Columbine High School stated that: "Our nation has so many
freedoms built into it that we have to have some morality installed
[sic] in our populace or these freedoms just won't work."
|| 2001-FEB: Virginia: "In God we Trust" bill
defeated. State Senator Warren E. Barry introduced a
bill making the recitation of the pledge of allegiance mandatory for every
Virginian public school student. Any student who refused to recite
the pledge, without a valid philosophical or religious
objection, would be suspended. Delegate Robert G. Marshall
suggested that the bill be amended to require school
buildings carry the national motto. The amendment was
rejected by the Senate Education and Health Committee.|
||2001-JUN: Mississippi: The legislature passed an unfunded mandate
to require all public classrooms auditoriums and cafeterias to display the
national motto. State
Senator Alan Nunnalee, sponsor of the legislation, said:
"Prayer and the Ten Commandments have been removed from the classrooms, and
I was looking for a way to put back the values I feel that our country was
founded upon. Educators know that visual reinforcement is an important part of
learning. And if that's the case, it's important that we visually reinforce
the foundation of our nation." Kenneth Briggs, a printer from Perl, MS,
has donated 35,000 posters containing the motto to Mississippi's schools. 6|
||2002-MAY-29: VA: Governor signs bill mandating "In God We Trust"
posters in schools:
Virginia Gov. Mark Warner signed a bill into law that requires public schools to hang posters
containing the motto "In God We Trust." Apparently there was no mechanism
for funding the posters. However, a private donor contributed the
necessary money to print and distribute the posters. 7|
||Mottos, pledges & symbols
References used in this essay:
Jay Tamboli, "In God We Trust: Why Atheists cannot be Americans,"
Donald Wildmon, "Let the Wailing Begin,"
American Family Association, at:
Brian Weber, "Board pushes 'In God We Trust'," at: http://insidedenver.com/news/0707trus1.shtml
Katherine Vogt, "School 'In God we trust' posting backed,"
Associated Press, at: http://seattlep-i.nwsource.com/national/god07.shtml
"Colorado school district rejects state plea to display
religionized 'In God we Trust' national motto," AANews,
Dave Clark, "Miss. students to see 'In God We Trust'," Focus on the
Bob Kellogg, "Va. Schools to Hang 'In God We Trust' Posters," Focus
on the Family, at:
Other Internet references:
||R.C. Reynolds, "In God we trust; All others pay cash,"
||Suzy Meyer, "'In God We Trust' belongs in parent's curriculum,"
Cortez (CO) Journal, at: http://www.cortezjournal.com/edit147.htm
||"In God We Trust: II Timothy 1:12," Grace Baptist Church,
Bloomington IN, at: http://www.brandonweb.com/gbt/sermonpages/
||Pastor Randy, "In God We Trust: Psalm 33:6-12," at: http://www.fortresschurch.org/pr-ingodwetrust.htm
Copyright © 2000 to 2002 incl., by Ontario Consultants on Religious
Originally written: 2000-AUG-13
Latest update: 2002-AUG-01
Author: B.A. Robinson