"In God We Trust"

I have a friend who crosses “In God We Trust” off of every bill before he will spend it. He feels that by using a note that contains this phrase to which he does not adhere, he is compromising his principles; thus, he crosses it off the bill. He also believes that the phrase should not be on government-issued currency in the first place (that it is a form of mixing church and state). Of course, he can’t do much about that – his own little protest is to cross the phrase off the bills he uses.

I also have some very religious friends, who noticed that he did this and mocked him because they saw nothing wrong with the phrase and thought what he was doing was a bit outlandish. They felt that since it wasn’t infringing on his freedom to believe whatever he chooses, it is not a problem, even if it is a subtle (or not-so-subtle, depending on the view) advocation of a particular religion or religions which are centered around belief in an entity called “God.”

I was going to put this in great debates, but I’m not really up to debating right now (if it becomes a debate, it may certainly be moved) – I just wanted to know what other people thought of this. The only views I heard today were those of one (rather radical) atheist and about four (quite devoted) Christians. What do you think of this issue? Is it an issue? Should the phrase be on our currency? Is it wrong, right, or of no consequence that some people choose to remove it? Does the phrase indeed condone particular religions, and does it have any effect, negative or positive, on our society? Is the argument made by some that our country was founded on Christian principles valid, blatantly false, or irrelevant? Have yourselves a discussion – I guess I’d like to hear some opinions that are not being yelled simultaneously from all sides of a table (literally, at least).

Moderator’s note:

This does look like classic Great Debates fodder but I’ll leave it here for the nonce as requested by the OP. I strongly suspect it’ll turn into a debate willy-nilly but hey, I’ll give it a chance.

for IMHO

I’ve gone through phases where I do and don’t bother to cross off “In God We Trust” from my money. Right now I mostly am crossing it off, because the legislature of my home state (Georgia) recently adopted a new flag, which drastically reduced the size of the Confederate Battle Flag shown (good) but also added “IGWT” (bad). Having that on our money, and also having it officially declared to be our “national motto” is offensive to those of us Americans who don’t trust in God. It’s not the most pressing or meaningful violation of SOCAS, but it’s irritating; furthermore it is used to justify other violations, which themselves still aren’t burning heretics at the stake but which are more troubling than the “national motto”; for example, the recent moves in several states to put up “IGWT” signs in public schools.

Should it be on our currency? Well, how about “In Jesus Christ We Trust”? Would there be a problem with adopting that as the national motto? “Most” Americans could agree with that, couldn’t they? The largest single religious denomination in this country are the Catholics–how about “In the Pope, when speaking ex cathedra on matters of faith and morals, we trust”? (A little long for the dime, I admit). I don’t really see any difference in principle between “In God We Trust” and either of those two; there’s just a difference in degree.

I don’t really know if that was a Humble Opinion or an argument for a Great Debate, but there you have it.

I’m really not in the mood to debate this but I did wanna say this:

1.)Our country was founded on principles of Godliness and Religon.
2.)Who ****ing Cares?

Is a stupid piece of paper oppressing you that much? Is it too much for you to take? Come on and grow up.

I see people every day that do things that I don’t like but do I go up and kick them in the balls? No, I just ignore it, because it’s not important and letting it get to you only stresses out your body. Then when your body gets stressed your immune system breaks down. When your immune system breaks down you get sick. When you get sick, you get cranky. When you get cranky you do stupid things like*** crossing out the words on dollar bills.***
:goes and grumbles while he takes some antibiotics:

You know, this is more of a debate topic, now that I think about it. Go ahead and switch it to GD, if you will.

My opinion: He’s being anal about it. HOwever, if he feels that strongly about it, let him have fun. Not like it’s going to offend me if he believes differently.

Moderator’s note:

You got it, gundhilde, and thanks. I agree; it’s better suited to Great Debates.

for IMHO

Well, there we have it - print whatever you like on our money! The voice of reason has spoken!

Nevermind the whole argument involving deism and the Treaty of Tripoli - the simplest answer is that if we printed on our money: “There is no god.” - every religious person, especially Christians, from here to Kalamazoo would be up in arms calling for the heads of their legislators. So, clearly, this issue does matter. And, as always, the best route is the neutral route for the government - not that they listen.

This country was not founded on the idea of God, but on the separation of church and state, and other ideas. I like to cross out God whenever possible, because the idea is evil by definition that it demonizes to survive. God is the last ideological despot, the last working fascism to overcome.


I has never been held to be a violation of the Constitutional provision for the separation of church and state at all, much less a pressing one. O’Hair v. Blumenthal, 462 F. Supp. 19 (1978); aff’d 588 F.2d 1144 (5th Cir.); cert. denied, 442 U.S. 930 (1979). The use of the motto is historical and ceremonial and its primary purpose is not the advancement of religion; therefore it is constitutionally okay. People may personally disagree with this – and we’ve been around this block a time or two here on the Board – but that is the legal analysis of the issue.

Yes, because it has not historically been the motto and does not serve to ceremonially invoke the name of a very generalized “god,” which is why IGWT is okay.

The opinions of “most” Americans is not dispositive when the issue is one of constitutionality.

No, for the same reason given above.

Then you might want to read the O’Hair case.


For some it is an issue, for me it is not. I think there are far more egregious things to get in a sweat about.

To me, that’s like asking if the presidents’ heads should be on our currency. It is on the currency as part of the design, and I am not bothered by it.

IMO, it is of no consequence. If they don’t like it they should be free to cross it out.

The courts have held that it does not condone any religion and that it has zero effect on society. These are part of the reasons they have held that it is okay. Certainly if it condoned any particular religion (or even religion generally) it would not be.

Eh, it’s not valid, blatantly false, or irrelevant. It isn’t valid because many of the founders were at best ambivalent Christians or Deists. It isn’t blantantly false because most of them were Christian in at least name or church affiliation. It isn’t irrelevant because the intent of the framers is one of the things looked at when interpreting the Constitution, and so when talking about religious issues and the Constitution, we often turn our attention to the framers attitudes vis a vis religion.

Our country was pretty clearly not founded on principles of Godliness and Religion. Our country was founded by men who followed rationalism as a philosophy and who actively sought to remove relgion from government. That is why they specifically rejected a state church, such as then existed in many countries in Europe and why they included the provision that Congress could neither mandate a religion nor inhibit the free exercise of religion.


I’m aware of the legal arguments, such as they are, but in my opinion, IGWT is a violation of SOCAS, and I would respectfully submit that the Supreme Court ought to strike down the motto. (Of course, in practical terms doing so would create a huge political and cultural firestorm, and we’d probably wind up with the damned thing shoe-horned in to the Constitution by amendment.) To argue it doesn’t “advance religion” strikes me as absurd. The motto is demonstrably associated with “Godliness and Religion”–usually “Judeo-Christian” and often specifically Christian religion. In the minds of many if not most Americans it specifically condones some religious viewpoints (monotheism, and even Christianity in particular) over others (atheism or polytheism). And this does have an effect on society, in that this perceived condoning or endorsement is used to justify other practices (like state-sponsored prayer in public schools) which the courts have ruled violate SOCAS.

I’m curious. Do you think it would it be constitutional to post the motto in public schools?

In case anyone cares, here is a history of “In God We Trust” http://www.treas.gov/opc/opc0011.html

I would also like to note that it is possible to strike the “T” from “Trust” and let the rest of the motto stand. It’s been known to happen.

Furthermore, lest anyone fear the wrath of the secret service, I quote USC Title 18, Part 1 , Chapter 17, sec 333:

Whoever multilates, cuts,… yada, yada… any bank bill… with intent to render such bank bill… unfit to be reissued shall be fined…imprisoned, etc. etc.

Ya gotta caefully pick and choose your battles, or you’ll go nuts pretty quick. If your friend is THAT bothered by “In God We Trust” on our money (I don’t like it, either, by the way), I suggest he stop crossing it out (which does nothing but make HIM feel better) and start organizing a grass-roots movement to get it taken off through the government. Sounds impssible—but hey, we got prayer out of the schools, didn’t We?

Well, DIDN’T we? . . .

No, we didn’t get prayer out of schools. We attempted to get organized prayer out of schools, but that effort is being fought against by those that feel that they have a “mandate” to force everyone to believe as they do.


“Anybody who thinks school prayer has been abolished has never thought about the typical reaction to the announcement: ‘We will now have a surprise test.’”

You got compulsory prayer out of the schools, and thank you for doing so.

I argued the other side of this battle over on the Pizza Parlor – the context there was Rhode Island’s bright idea that they would compel students to recite the Preamble to the Rhode Island State Constitution:

Citizens of the United States, including school children, are privileged to choose the form of worship and belief they will pursue, including none at all. And it is unconstitutional for any government body, local, county, state, or federal, to require, favor, compel, impede, or prohibit such exercise (or choosing not to exercise) such belief and its practice.

In short, if kids who believe in the Judaeo-Christian God (or in Yog-Sothoth, for that matter) choose to gather at a time and place acceptable to the proper operation of the school facilities and pray to God (or sacrifice gerbils to Yog-Sothoth), it is their privilege. (Although they better clean up the gerbil entrails afterward – it would be a constitutional violation to pay the janitors to do so.)

We banned compulsion. In 1791, IIRC.

And, as a devout Christian who holds strongly to the value and importance of free will and the constitutionally guaranteed freedom of religion, I’d strongly support getting rid of that slogan on our money. All it does is piss off those who don’t believe in the God referred to; when was the last time you looked at a dollar bill and were reminded by it of what you owe to God’s good providence? (Atheists and such, don’t bother answering.)

But, as Jodi noted, by appropriate legal contortions, the Supreme Court managed to find “In God we trust” as not a violation of the First Amendment guarantees. Of course, the Justices are required to be experts in constitutional law, and a passion for justice is sometimes evident; there is nothing requiring them to exercise common sense.

“…all others pay cash”
“…certainly not in our governmental officials!”

Is it illegal to deface your currency? I read a book recently (can’t remember the exact title - mind like a sieve) in which some US legal schmoe comes into possession of a coin which has been deliberately defaced on one side - an initial was carved into it, IIRC. He’s not happy about the legality of owning it.

Was the author wrong? Are coins treated separately from paper currency, or is it a matter of degree?

IMO, of course, which tragically has yet to be adopted as the final word in constitutional law. Maybe next week.

Whenever I think of intrusion of “God” into our money, pledge of allegiance, oficial motto, etc. it offends me and reminds me that a large percentage of Americans still believe that state sanction of religion is a good thing and that expressing prejudice on religious grounds is at least acceptable if not a moral duty. The offense is quite minor. The reminder is chiling.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing. I think it better to be aware of the unpleasant truth than to drift complacently into a budding theocracy.

Truthfully, I think Poly nailed the essential absurdity of this particular situation. Can someone explain to me why a person of devout religion would want God’s name emblazoned on currency? It seems doubtful that anyone is filled with spiritual reverence as they fork over the dough for a hummer from the local crack whore (or buys two happy meals – insert vice of choice). It seems to me that tying God to currency cheapens the former without in any way elevating the latter.

Anyway – let me also add that about the only time I think of this issue is when someone else brings it up. I think it is bad policy, bad law, and a poor expression of religious faith. But it ain’t keeping me up nights.

If a Southern Confederate sympathizer scrawled “Murderer!” over Lincoln’s face on 5 dollar bills, or a born-again Christian scrawled “Blasphemous heretic” over Jefferson’s face on 2 dollar bills, or a black man wrote “Racist, slave-owning pig!” over Washington’s face on 1 dollar bill,s mightn’t you think him… oh, a trifle odd?

Oh, let’s not mince words- you’d call him an oversensitive jackass, and tell him to grow up!

You don’t like seeing God’s name on a half dollar coin? Hey, I don’t like seeing JFK’s mug on it, myself. Somehow, though, I’ve learned to live with it. You can, too!