American Minute: IN GOD WE TRUST
By : William Federer
On MARCH 3, 1931, Congress adopted “The Star-Spangled Banner” as the National Anthem.
Written by Francis Scott Key during the War of 1812, the 4th verse of includes the lines:
“O thus be it ever when free men shall stand,
Between their loved home and the war’s desolation;
Blest with victory and peace, may the Heaven-rescued land,
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation!
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just;
And this be our motto ‘IN GOD IS OUR TRUST’!
And the Star Spangled Banner in triumph shall wave,
Over the land of the free and the home of the brave!”
The ‘Star-Spangled Banner’ stirred patriotism across America, with its 4th verse inspiring the 125th Pennsylvania Infantry to use ‘IN GOD WE TRUST’ as its battle cry at the Battle of Antietam.
During the Civil War, Rev. M.R. Watkinson wrote to the Treasury Department, November 13, 1861, suggesting the recognition of “Almighty God in some form in our coins.”
Treasury Secretary Salmon P. Chase, who Lincoln later appointed Chief Justice, assigned the task to James Pollock, the Philadelphia Director of the Mint.
James Pollock was the former Governor of Pennsylvania and a former U.S. Congressman.
Complying with Secretary Chase’s request, The Report of the Secretary of the Treasury on the State of the Finances (U.S. Dept. of the Treasury, 1863, page 190-191), printed James Pollock’s reply:
We claim to be a Christian nation—why should we not vindicate our character by honoring the God of Nations … Our national coinage should do this. Its legends and devices should declare our trust in God-in Him who is ‘King of Kings and Lord of Lords.’
James Pollock continued:
The motto suggested, ‘God our Trust,’ is taken from our National Hymn, the ‘Star-Spangled Banner.’ The sentiment is familiar to every citizen of our country—it has thrilled the hearts and fallen in song from the lips of millions of American Freemen.
The time for the introduction of this … is propitious and appropriate. ‘Tis an hour of National peril and danger—an hour when man’s strength is weakness—when our strength and our nation’s strength and salvation, must be in the God of Battles and of Nations.
Let us reverently acknowledge his sovereignty, and let our coinage declare our trust in God.
Treasury Secretary Salmon P. Chase wrote to James Pollock, December 9, 1863:
I approve your mottos, only suggesting that on that with the Washington obverse, the motto should begin with the word ‘Our,’ so as to read: ‘Our God and our Country.’ And on that with the shield, it should be changed so as to read: ‘IN GOD WE TRUST.’
Salmon P. Chase’s proposal was passed by Congress on April 22, 1864, allowing the motto on one-cent and two-cent coins.
On MARCH 3, 1865, Congress voted to approve the motto ‘IN GOD WE TRUST’ for all U.S. coins.
House Speaker Schuyler Colfax noted:
The last act of Congress ever signed by President Lincoln was one requiring that the motto … ‘IN GOD WE TRUST’ should hereafter be inscribed upon all our national coin.
“IN GOD WE TRUST” was inscribed in the U.S. House Chamber above the Speaker’s rostrum;
above the Senate’s main southern door;
on a tribute block inside the Washington Monument;
and on a stained-glass window in the U.S. Capitol’s Chapel.
President Truman stated October 30, 1949:
When the U.S. was established … the motto was ‘IN GOD WE TRUST.’ That is still our motto and we still place our firm trust in God.
President Eisenhower remarked at a ceremony issuing the first stamp bearing the motto “IN GOD WE TRUST,” April 8, 1954:
America’s greatness has been based upon a spiritual quality … symbolized by the stamp that will be issued today …
Regardless of any eloquence of the words that may be inside the letter, on the outside he places a message:
‘Here is … the land that lives in respect for the Almighty’s mercy to us’ … Each of us, hereafter, fastening such a stamp on a letter, cannot fail to feel something of the inspiration that we do whenever we … read “IN GOD WE TRUST.
The same day, President Eisenhower stated to a Women’s Conference:
I have just come from assisting in the dedication of a new stamp … The stamp has on it a picture of the Statue of Liberty, and on it also is stated ‘IN GOD WE TRUST’ …
All of us mere mortals are dependent upon the mercy of a Superior Being …
The reason this seems so thrilling is … the opportunity it gives to every single individual who buys the stamp to send a message—regardless of the content of a letter … that this is the land of the free and ‘IN GOD WE TRUST.’
President Eisenhower remarked at the 75th Anniversary of the Incandescent Lamp, October 24, 1954:
‘IN GOD WE TRUST.’ Often have we heard the words of this wonderful American motto. Let us make sure that familiarity has not made them meaningless for us.
We carry the torch of freedom as a sacred trust for all mankind. We do not believe that God intended the light that He created to be putout by men.
Atheism substitutes men for the Supreme Creator and this leads inevitably to domination and dictatorship.
But we believe—and it is because we believe that God intends all men to be free and equal that we demand free government.
Our Government is servant, not master, our chosen representatives are our equals, not our czars or commissars.
We must jealously guard our foundation in faith. For on it rests the ability of the American individual to live and thrive in this blessed land—and to be able to help other less fortunate people to achieve freedom and individual opportunity.
These we take for granted, but to others they are often only a wistful dream.
On July 11, 1954, a month after the phrase “UNDER GOD” was incorporated into the Pledge of Allegiance, Congress enacted Public Law 84-140 which put the motto, ‘IN GOD WE TRUST,’ on all national coins and currency.
In 1956, the phrase ‘IN GOD WE TRUST’ was legally adopted by Congress as the official United States’ National Motto.
John F. Kennedy stated February 9, 1961:
The guiding principle of this Nation has been, is now, and ever shall be ‘IN GOD WE TRUST.’
President Reagan stated in his National Day of Prayer Proclamation, March 19, 1981:
Our Nation’s motto ‘IN GOD WE TRUST’—was not chosen lightly. It reflects a basic recognition that there is a divine authority in the universe to which this Nation owes homage.
Reagan stated at a White House observance of National Day of Prayer, May 6, 1982:
Our faith in God is a mighty source of strength. Our Pledge of Allegiance states that we are ‘one nation under God,’ and our currency bears the motto, ‘IN GOD WE TRUST.’
Reagan said following a meeting with Pope John Paul II in Vatican City, June 7, 1982:
Ours is a nation grounded on faith, faith in man’s ability through God-given freedom to live in tolerance and peace and faith that a Supreme Being guides our daily striving in this world. Our national motto, ‘IN GOD WE TRUST,’ reflects that faith.
President George H.W. Bush met with Amish and Mennonites at Penn Johns Elementary School in Lancaster, PA, March 22, 1989. When a Mennonite leader stated:
We want to keep that theme, ‘IN GOD WE TRUST,’ which is stamped on our money,
President Bush replied:
It’s staying there. Nobody can knock that off.
President George H.W. Bush remarked on the National Day of Prayer, May 4, 1989:
We are one nation under God. And we were placed here on Earth to do His work. And our work has gone on now for more than 200 years in the Nation—a work best embodied in four simple words: ‘IN GOD WE TRUST.’
In a 2003 joint poll by USA Today, CNN, and Gallup reported that 90% of Americans support “IN GOD WE TRUST” on U.S. coins.
In 2006, on the 50th anniversary of its adoption, the Senate reaffirmed “IN GOD WE TRUST” as the official national motto.
In July 2010, a Federal Appeals Court in the District of Columbia ruled 3-0 the National Motto was constitutional under the First Amendment, quoting the 1970 decision, Aronow v. United States:
It is quite obvious that the national motto and slogan on coinage and currency ‘IN GOD WE TRUST’ has nothing whatsoever to do with the establishment of religion.
On March 7, 2011, the Supreme Court denied a challenge by an atheist who was intolerant of the National Motto, by letting the decision of the Federal Appeals Court stand.
On November 1, 2011, the House of Representatives passed an additional resolution in a 396-9 vote reaffirming “IN GOD WE TRUST” as the official motto of the United States.