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Four little words

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I originally posted this thread in another Forum. But because I feel it is important - I decided to post it here as well. I urge you to limit your comments to a discussion and not an argument.


I know this is a very controversial subject. Nonetheless it is a very important one to us as it affects every coin - every note produced in our nation today.


So - PLEASE limit any comments or opinions to just that. Everyone is entitled to their own opinions. If you wish to make your opinion known - fine. But DO NOT attack, condemn or otherwise make disparaging personal remarks just because their opinion is different than yours.






Few things have ever created so much and such long-lived controversy in the history of our nation as those four little words. Those four words are one of the Official Mottoes of the United States of America. The other is E Pluribus Unum. And as such they appear on every coin and every Federal Reserve note produced in our nation today.


The nation is divided into two basic camps regarding this subject; those who think the Motto should be changed and removed from our coins and currency; and those who think it should remain. Both camps have their reasons for their ideals and both are resolutely certain that their ideal is the correct one.


Those who wish the Motto to be changed and removed base their thinking on the idea of the separation of church & state and claim that such a Motto is not a part of our nation's heritage. That it is but a recent addition and as such had no place in the founding of our nation. And that based on the idea of the separation of church & state such a Motto is unconstitutional. Those who wish the Motto to remain unchanged refute these claims in every way. It is a difficult subject for many people to consider in which camp they belong. For others, they have no problem. They know on which side of the fence they stand and defend their position with vigor.


A simple search of the Internet for the words "In God We Trust" will bring up enough links on both sides of the issue to keep a person reading for weeks. But for myself there are really only two questions that need asking. Is the Motto actually rooted in the very beginnings of our nation's heritage? And does the Motto contradict the idea of the separation of church & state?


The first question is easily answered for me. There were 56 men who signed the Declaration of Independence in 1776 - the very beginning of our nation. This is the pledge that those 56 men made - "For the support of this declaration, with firm reliance on the protection of the divine providence, we mutually pledge to each other, our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor." It seems rather hard to argue that "In God We Trust" and "firm reliance on the protection of the divine providence" do not convey the same meaning. And how much further back can you go into our nation's heritage than the signing of the Declaration of Independence?


Then of course you can examine our National Anthem - written in 1814. The words of the third from the last line of the fourth stanza are - "And this is our motto - 'In God is our Trust!" Now somebody will say those words are not in our National Anthem. But "The Star Spangled Banner" is actually a poem that was put to music. And only the first stanza of the poem was used in the song.


So it seems to me that when Congress decided to place the Motto "In God We Trust" on some of our coins back in the 1860's they were only too aware of just how much those words are a part of our nation's heritage. Perhaps we have forgotten it.


As for the second question; this nation was founded on the idea of freedom of religion. Because at the time, in most nations of the world there was only one religion acceptable in any given nation -that being the State Religion of the given nation. And the founders of our nation wanted to make sure that was not the case here - which they did.


The First Amendment of the Constitution states - "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof......" Seems rather obvious to me what that means. That the Congress shall not make any law that establishes a State Religion. That is what is meant by and what was intended by our founding fathers to maintain a separation of church & state.


Perhaps - we have forgotten too much.

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Ok, I'll bite... (I always like to discuss politics anyway!)


While I haven't kept up with the various arguments on this issue, I think I can see the merits of views of the two camps.


Personally, I think it is disingenuous for any society to say that they can completely eliminate all traces of a divinity. We are all human beings, and a common notion of humanity is that we look forward -- with our hopes and our aspirations.


Part and parcel of our shared hopes is the acceptance that the world is too large and beyond our control; consequently, it is quite natural for us then also to look toward a divinity as a catch-all for our hopes and aspirations.


We, the sapiens, are only about 50 thousand years young. Our cognitive capabilities may have allowed us to inherit the Earth, but it is our maturity that will see if we can retain it. I feel we, as a species, are still in our youth. As any child, we question and we probe. But, as with any child, we need ultimately to have parents to whom to turn when things get tough.


Today, in the United States, we wisely retain the elements of humanity from which we sprang. Our references to a divinity in our mottoes is a re-affirmation of our nation as a nation of human beings, with a shared humanity.


It is not by chance that over 90% of the world's population believes in a divinity of some sort and in some way.


Finally, I think the references do not infringe whatsoever on the separation clause because the vast majority of us view the mottoes as a secular notion.


It is my gut feel that, as secular as this nation is, as liberal as this nation is, we're still a nation that will ultimately rule by a practicality and commonsense. We will not forget our humanity, we will not abandon our traditions as Americans or as human beings.


Ultimately, I believe that all 3 branches of government will recognize that there really is no threat to the separation clause.




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For what it is worth - the use of "In God We Trust" as the motto on our paper currency and coins has been subject to legal challenges in the courts. In the first such case, Aronow v. United States (1970), the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled that, "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."


A second challenge, Madalyn Murray O'Hair v. W. Michael Blumenthal, Secretary of the Treasury, et al. (1978) was heard in the United States District Court, Western District of Texas. The court opined that, based on the above ruling by the Ninth Circuit court, "From this it is easy to deduce that the Court concluded that the primary purpose of the slogan was secular; it served a secular ceremonial purpose in the obviously secular function of providing a medium of exchange." Several other court cases were also unsuccessful despite the plaintiffs assertion that the motto was clearly of a religious nature in making a statement about God and encouraging belief in that God.


This use of the national motto has been challenged in court many times over the years that it has been in use, and has been consistently upheld by the various courts of this country, including the U.S. Supreme Court as recently as 1977.


In 1992, a challenge was filed and successfully defeated in the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland.


And in 1996 the US Supreme Court turned down an appeal on the subject.

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I think it should be taken off for a diffrent reason.




3) the date


5) the coins values written out



All these have to be on all coins. It does not leave much room for the design. CHRIS



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Well, I have weighed in on this issue before, and it certainly gets pretty heated. I won't go into great detail into my thoughts here since I am trying to pack so I can move next week. But, here are my thoughts:


I do not believe that the motto in and of itself comes close to violating the establishment clause of the First Amendment. It simply does not establish any specific religion for the nation, but merely acknowledges the role of the divine within the history of our great nation.


The vast majority of the people against the motto or the pledge of allegiance are not members of other religions, but atheists, who hold that there is no god. Well, to me, it takes just as much faith, in fact more faith to definitively determine that in the near-infinite expanse of this universe, there is no divine being or god. As such, I feel that atheism in itself can be considered a religion, though one without regular meetings, or worship halls. If that is the case, forcing the government to abide by the precepts of atheism comes far closer to establishing a state religion than the motto ever could. Should the majority of people in this nation allow a small but boisterous minority to compel the government to embace the idea that all references to God should be removed from the public arena, then we would merely be establishing the same sort of state religion as what prevailed in Stalinist Russia. Is that where we really want to be? Further, does the idea of minority opinion consistently overpowering and silencing the opinions of the majority render our nation no longer to be one "of the people, by the people and for the people?" If that happens, it will be only a matter of time before this nation does indeed perish from the earth.

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I'm not sure how germane this is to the discussion at hand, but reading Jeff's post regarding atheism brings me to another thought...


In mathematical terms, a NULL object can still be a member of a set of objects. So, in the set of religions, or rather the set of religious notions, atheism can be considered within that set.


(Some may incorrectly say that atheism is anti-theism, but that would still fit the mathematical, and hence logical, point I'm trying to make.)


Minor tangent:


I'm not an especially religious person, and haven't been to a worship service in a very long time. I'm like that, I suppose, because I got turned off by the fulsome religiosity in the main church that I attended in my youth. However, I have never denied a divinity. Question it, yes. Deny it, no! As irreligious as I've become, this is one of those issues that I find myself uncomfortably siding with the religious right...




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I have to agree with many of you regarding the Motto. In and of itself, the Motto is not a threat to anyone. I have no problem with it being on our money or where ever it seems appropriate in the context of believing in a Diety.


I also left my mainline church at an early age for various reasons, including hypocracy as the major reason. I am not against religion. I raised my children in Catholic Schools. Beside being the best school in town, they gave the kids structure. I felt (and still do feel) that structure was and is important in raising children.


I stop at the door when government gets involved in issues, such as abortion and prayer in public schools. These I feel, are personal moral issues that government, with protection of the Constitution, has no role in. This is what "Roe vs. Wade" is all about. Moral Majorities should not try to undermine the public trust by driving a wedge between "them" and "us". There should be no them and us, most certainly in Government and because we are all American's.


These sorts of disruptive activities are clearly inapproriate in Government forums and law enforcement. These are a few of the basic freedoms that our Forefather's wanted quaranteed by the Constitution.


Basically, I have the right to believe in what I wish and so do you. There is the separation and there it should stay. It should be kept on the individual level with no recriminations. I just moved (2 years ago) from a place with a majority church.


I saw all the discrimination and back room (illegal) dealing to protect their church, relieve the insiders from paying State Income Taxes on their businesses and load the burden on the minority. These and other actions, that excluded everyone but themselves, scared me because I could see how close they were to anarchy against our freedoms.


These types of scenarios are what most citizens are afraid of, and they should be, because these activities threaten our freedom from within.

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The motto IN GOD WE TRUST appeared first on the two cent piece in 1864. It was a reaction to two interrelated things: 1) An increase in religious fever during the Civil War, because of the war and the personal toll it was taking - the closest thing to Armageddon this nation had or has ever seen; 2) A desire to create unity that was greater and more strongly stated than that of the motto E PLURIBUS UNUM.


I have no objections to the motto, but like T. Roosevelt, I feel the motto appearing on a coin is below the deity, if you will. Nonetheless, I have two salient points:


1) The framers of the constitution that reads "divine providence" were quite intentional about not using the word GOD, as this did and can be ascribed to have particular meanings of religious affiliation.


2) Our nations forefathers recognized the importance of theism from the definitional standpoint of the belief in a god or gods. This is different from the theists of modern definition who contort the meaning to that of a benevolent and intervening god of creation.


On the above bases, I would be more comfortable with the motto IN DIVINE PROVIDENCE WE TRUST, or no such motto at all, but just try to get THAT on our too-crowded coins!


As a footnote, I agree with EVP and others that atheism is a form of secular worship that arises from, or perhaps is, the null set. However, I have met many atheists who had beliefs that varied widely among them. The one thing that none of them can agree upon is who or what they don't believe in.



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Excellent, well thought-out opinions, from both sides. It gives me much to ponder.

But, until I do I'd rather see the DATE taken off first, before the Motto.

(And, I'd hate to see the DATE go)

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