In God We Trust

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In God We Trust is the current official motto of the United States of America. The de facto motto of the USA from 1782 to 1956 was e plurbis unum which is Latin for, "out of many, one," but it was supplanted in 1956 during the Cold War in part to help differentiate the country from what was perceived to be godless communism. I like the original motto because it focuses on multiple people joining together to form a single country, a sentiment worth adopting. I find the new religious motto to be divisive not just because it only applies to those people who follow a monotheistic religion, but because it purposely contradicts the beliefs of a large amount of the population. "In God We Trust" also focuses, not on cooperation, but on obedience, something I don't think the government should be in the practice of doing. Having "In God We Trust" as a national motto also violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment by endorsing one type of religion over others.

In the current political climate, it is unlikely that a lawsuit will succeed in returning the motto to its original inclusive form or even be heard by the US Supreme Court. Part of this is because the US Supreme Court is predominately Christian, but also because the US legal system is based on observable damages; if you can't show that a particular action has damaged you, it's not illegal. Since a motto doesn't directly hurt anyone, it's hard to rule it illegal, even if it obviously violates the First Amendment. However, the US is steadily becoming less religious, and I hope that our political leaders will recognize that an inclusive secular national motto is preferred and return the motto to its original form.

US Currency

Reverse of a $1 bill prior to 1956.

US currency was first minted in 1792, but the phrase "In God We Trust" didn't appear on any US currency until 81 years later in 1873, and then only on coins and not consistently. In addition to religious piety, the phrase was added was because, during the US Civil War, Union politicians wanted to demonstrate how their god favored the North. The Confederate States did not include the phrase on any of their money, but the Union Congress voted to let the Treasury add "In God We Trust" to US currency during the Civil War, though it wasn't actually added until after the war in 1873. From 1873 to 1957, the phrase would appear off-an-on on some US coins, but not on bills. It wasn't until 1957, after the phrase was adopted as the official motto the US, that it became mandatory for "In God We Trust" to appear on all US currency, an act that would no doubt enrage several of the men whose faces are depicted next to it.

Redacting a $100 bill.

As a form of civil disobedience to show my disgust with the new motto, I have been crossing the word "GOD" off the back of every bill that has come into my possession since around 2005. I purposely strike out just the word "GOD" so that those who see it know that my problem is with the religious aspect of the motto.

Every time I get new bills I redact them with a black Sharpie marker that I keep in my car specifically for this purpose. So far, I have drained an entire marker of ink on nothing but centimeter long marks and am currently on my second. I've redacted literally thousands of bills.

Christian Nation Argument

One of the ways this new motto hurts the nation is because Christians often see it as evidence that the United Stages was formed as a Christian nation. Such a belief is not only contradictory to the First Amendment of the US Constitution, but also chronologically flawed. Since the motto wasn't adopted until 1957, 181 years after the US declared itself independent, it can't possibly have any bearing on the original formation of the nation.

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