Supreme Court: ‘In God We Trust’ Motto Remains on Coins and Currency

by Darrin Lee Unser on March 18, 2011 · 6 comments

The "In God We Trust" motto seen on U.S. coins and currency survived another legal challenge brought about by those seeking its removal.

Lincoln Cent - In God We Trust

On Monday, March 7, the United States Supreme Court denied a petition to hear the matter on the inclusion of "In God We Trust" on American money, leaving a lower court’s ruling in place stating it could remain.

While there have been previous suits brought on the matter, this most recent was instituted by Michael A. Newdow, an attorney and doctor who is no stranger to similar legal challenges. He previously questioned the use of "Under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance which had worked its way up to the Supreme Court in 2004, but the preceding Appeals Court decision that its use was, in essence, an endorsement of religion was overturned by the Supreme Court for procedural reasons.

On this more recent issue, Newdow claimed that the use of "In God We Trust" on coins and currency violated the United States Constitution’s First Amendment prohibiting the Congressional "establishment of religion." A decision on the matter was offered last year by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals (Newdow vs. Lefevre, 10-893). In part, it affirmed an earlier court ruling on a similar matter from 1970, with the majority in the Appeals Court adding:

"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 a patriotic or ceremonial character and bears no true resemblance to a governmental sponsorship of a religious exercise."

It is likely that this matter will be challenged again in the future as indicated by comments made by Newdow following the Supreme Courts refusal to hear the case.

"I plan on bringing the lawsuit again on behalf of other Americans who believe they are injured when the government lends its power to one side of the controversy over whether or not God exists," stated Newdow according to Religion News Service (RNS).

The use of "In God We Trust" on American coins dates back to 1864 when it was added to the two-cent piece at the direction of then Treasury Secretary Salmon P. Chase. It was added to additional denominations in the following years with Congress backing those inclusions several times, but not requiring it on all coins. The last coin to not contain the motto was the 1913-1938 circulating nickel which many refer to as either the "Indian Head Nickel" or the "Buffalo Nickel." In 1955, Congress demanded that the motto be included on all United States coins.

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Vachon March 19, 2011 at 4:28 am

I’d rather it just be like the old days where, if the motto can be included artistically (I add E Pluribus Unum to this statement as well), then include it…whatever. The phrase “In God We Trust”‘s origins are dubious but I agree with the “ceremonial deism” interpretation. I only don’t agree with Congress mandating that it appear regardless of its ability to be artistically fit in.

Of current circulating coins, the Roosevelt dime would benefit from having both mottos removed. In God We Trust is cluttered on the obverse and E Pluribus Unum just looks silly spaced as it is. The Lincoln cent handles all mottos well. The Jefferson nickel could do without E Pluribus Unum to allow for “Five Cents” to appear more legibly. The ATB quarters (as well as the previous 50 states program) could have done without In God We Trust cluttering up the obverse. Well, that whole obverse design was (and still is) a mess. The Kennedy half dollar handles all its mottos well. The Presidential Dollars should have the Presidential information incused on the edge, especially if the Mint’s goal was to make this program semi-educational. Hold the coin up, ask who it is, and check the edge for the answer. 🙂

The coins need less verbiage, not more.

little guy March 20, 2011 at 9:56 am

I like it much better on the coins.I could never imagine ( IN GOVERNMENT WE TRUST).

Munze March 20, 2011 at 12:29 pm

I like the idea of swapping the presidential information to the dollars’ edge. If nothing else it would stop the questions (at least 2 or 3 times a week) from excited newbies who just found a “really shiny dollar from 1841”, groan.

I’d also be willing to bet that for 99.8% of the population the motto is a non-issue. The amazing thing is the level of dudgeon that the other 0.2% can reach. They forget that the country survived from 1776 to 1864 (well, almost not, in the Civil War) without the motto on any coins, and we did a darn good job in WWII without it being on paper money. IMHO the idea that in all of the quadrillions of cubic light-years occupied by our universe, God is going to be tied in celestial knots over a motto’s placement on little pieces of metal is beyond fatuous.

Albert December 28, 2011 at 11:27 pm

Great Decision! In God we trust should stay on money.If the Muslims and Buddists who move over here do not like it,they can always go home.We will not miss them.Great Decision!

J.Ferraro June 7, 2012 at 6:00 pm

I believe that “In God We trust” is really an accurate statement. Knowing that if the ability to “trade ” currency for goods or services (food or water) was compromised and “currency” was greatly or completely devalued, than all we could trust in would BE God.. or perhaps the GOoDwill of mankind to help obtain,at least, the most basic needs?

Will Sarrell January 30, 2013 at 3:05 pm

“I plan on bringing the lawsuit again on behalf of other Americans who believe they are injured when the government lends its power to one side of the controversy over whether or not God exists,” stated Newdow.
As for “the controversy over whether or not God exists” I would ask, “What’s the big deal? What could possibly be injurious from a simple motto on currency?”
If God exisits, Mr. Newdow apparently disavows Him. Why try to persuade everyone else? Why not let them all live in their unenlightened state in peace?
If God does not exist, Mr. Newdow is exerting a lot of energy over a non-entity.
Either way, it seems to me Mr. Newdow is “full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”
For the record, I do believe God and Jesus Christ exist – as revealed in the Bible.

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