July 25, 2006

In God We TrustWill the National Motto Stand?

Fifty years ago, on July 30th, 1956, President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed a joint resolution from Congress declaring "In God We Trust" the official motto of the United States. But it was in 1861 that Salmon P. Chase, Secretary of the Treasury under Abraham Lincoln, first saw the need to recognize our creator by writing to the U.S. Mint in Philadelphia that "No nation can be strong except in the strength of God, or safe except in His defense. The trust of our people in God should be declared on our national coins."[1] By subsequent acts of Congress, the phrase has been stamped on U.S. coins since 1864. However, it wasn't until 1956 that the phrase was declared the official motto of the nation. A year later "In God We Trust" began also appearing on paper money.

Yet, in recent years, there have been a growing chorus of individuals who object to the national motto being printed on our currency, citing as the reason the "separation of church and state." The problem with these efforts is that they distortion the plain facts of history.

Our Religious History

Worldview analysis in the areas of history, law, and politics provide the basis for keeping the national motto intact. For the details, we can go to a brilliant summary in the 1892 United States Supreme Court decision of Holy Trinity v United States. In this decision, the Court provided a litany of historical examples for why the United States is considered a Christian nation. Referring to the people of the United States, the decision declared . . .

" . . . this is a religious people. This is historically true. From the discovery of this continent to the present hour, there is a single voice making this affirmation."[2]

The court next lists a series of examples describing the role Christianity had in the founding of the United States. Beginning with the commissioning of Christopher Columbus to the colonial charters of the early 1600s and the Mayflower Compact of 1620, and concluding with the Declaration of Independence, each episode illustrates that Christianity played a crucial role in the thinking of the European settlers as they came to America.

Every State Constitution Acknowledges God

But with these early examples the court is only warming up to their argument. The Justices next turn to the state constitutions for confirmation of their thesis, stating . . .

If we examine the constitutions of the various states, we find in them a constant recognition of religious obligations. Every constitution of every one of the 44 states contains language which, either directly or by clear implication, recognizes a profound reverence for religion, and an assumption that its influence in all human affairs is essential to the well-being of the community.

To document their point, the Justices include portions from various state constitutions. In case you haven't read your state constitution recently, below are excerpts from all fifty state constitutions illustrating open and direct appeals to God.

ALABAMA, 1901, Preamble. We the people of the State of Alabama, in order to establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, invoking the favor and guidance of Almighty God, do ordain and establish the following Constitution . . .
ALASKA, 1956, Preamble. We, the people of Alaska, grateful to God and to those who founded our nation and pioneered this great land . . .
ARIZONA, 1911, Preamble. We, the people of the State of Arizona, grateful to Almighty God for our liberties, do ordain this Constitution . . .
ARKANSAS, 1874, Preamble. We, the people of the State of Arkansas, grateful to Almighty God for the privilege of choosing our own form of government . . .
CALIFORNIA, 1879, Preamble. We, the People of the State of California, grateful to Almighty God for our freedom . . .
COLORADO, 1876, Preamble. We, the people of Colorado, with profound reverence for the Supreme Ruler of the Universe . . .
CONNECTICUT, 1818, Preamble. The People of Connecticut, acknowledging with gratitude the good Providence of God in permitting them to enjoy . . .
DELAWARE, 1897, Preamble. Through Divine Goodness all men have, by nature, the rights of worshipping and serving their Creator according to the dictates of their consciences . . .
FLORIDA, 1885, Preamble. We, the people of the State of Florida, grateful to Almighty God for our constitutional liberty establish this Constitution . . .
GEORGIA, 1777, Preamble. We, the people of Georgia, relying upon protection and guidance of Almighty God, do ordain and establish this Constitution . . .
HAWAII, 1959, Preamble. We, the people of Hawaii, Grateful for Divine Guidance . . . establish this Constitution.
IDAHO, 1889, Preamble. We, the people of the State of Idaho, grateful to Almighty God for our freedom, to secure its blessings . . .
ILLINOIS, 1870, Preamble. We, the people of the State of Illinois, grateful to Almighty God for the civil, political and religious liberty which He hath so long permitted us to enjoy and looking to Him for a blessing on our endeavors . . .
INDIANA, 1851, Preamble. We, the People of the State of Indiana, grateful to Almighty . . .
IOWA, 1857, Preamble. We, the People of the State of Iowa, grateful to the Supreme Being for the blessings hitherto enjoyed, and feeling our dependence on Him for a continuation of these blessings establish this Constitution . . .
KANSAS, 1859, Preamble. We, the people of Kansas, grateful to Almighty God for our civil and religious privileges, establish this Constitution . . .
KENTUCKY, 1891, Preamble. We, the people of the Commonwealth of Kentucky, grateful to Almighty God for the civil, political and religious liberties we enjoy . . .
LOUISIANA, 1921, Preamble. We, the people of the State of Louisiana, grateful to Almighty God for the civil, political and religious liberties we enjoy . . .
MAINE, 1820, Preamble. We the People of Maine . . . acknowledging with grateful hearts the goodness of the Sovereign Ruler of the Universe . . . and imploring His aid and direction . . .
MARYLAND, 1776, Preamble. We, the people of the state of Maryland, grateful to Almighty God for our civil and religious liberty . . .
MASSACHUSETTS, 1780, Preamble. We . . . the people of Massachusetts, acknowledging with grateful hearts, the goodness of the Great Legislator of the Universe . . . in the course of His Providence, an opportunity and devoutly imploring His direction . . .
MICHIGAN, 1908, Preamble. We, the people of the State of Michigan, grateful to Almighty God for the blessings of freedom, establish this Constitution . . .
MINNESOTA, 1857, Preamble. We, the people of the State of Minnesota, grateful to God for our civil and religious liberty, and desiring to perpetuate its blessings . . .
MISSISSIPPI, 1890, Preamble. We, the people of Mississippi in convention assembled, grateful to Almighty God, and invoking His blessing on our work . . .
MISSOURI, 1845, Preamble. We, the people of Missouri, with profound reverence for the Supreme Ruler of the Universe, and grateful for His goodness . . . establish this Constitution . . .
MONTANA, 1889, Preamble. We, the people of Montana, grateful to Almighty God for the blessings of liberty, establish this Constitution . . .
NEBRASKA, 1875, Preamble. We, the people, grateful to Almighty God for our freedom, do ordain and establish the following declaration of rights and frame of government . . .
NEVADA, 1864, Preamble. We the people of the State of Nevada, grateful to Almighty God for our freedom, establish this Constitution . . .
NEW HAMPSHIRE, 1792, Part I. Art. I. Sec. V. Every individual has a natural and unalienable right to worship God according to the dictates of his own conscience.
NEW JERSEY, 1844, Preamble. We, the people of the State of New Jersey, grateful to Almighty God for civil and religious liberty which He hath so long permitted us to enjoy, and looking to Him for a blessing on our endeavors . . .
NEW MEXICO, 1911, Preamble. We, the People of New Mexico, grateful to Almighty God for the blessings of liberty . . .
NEW YORK, 1846, Preamble. We, the people of the State of New York, grateful to Almighty God for our freedom, in order to secure its blessings . . .
NORTH CAROLINA, 1868, Preamble. We the people of the State of North Carolina, grateful to Almighty God, the Sovereign Ruler of Nations, for our civil, political, and religious liberties, and acknowledging our dependence upon Him for the continuance of those . . .
NORTH DAKOTA, 1889, Preamble. We, the people of North Dakota, grateful to Almighty God for the blessings of civil and religious liberty, do ordain . . .
OHIO, 1852, Preamble. We the people of the state of Ohio, grateful to Almighty God for our freedom, to secure its blessings and to promote our common welfare . . .
OKLAHOMA, 1907, Preamble. Invoking the guidance of Almighty God, in order to secure and perpetuate the blessings of liberty . . . we, the people of the State of Oklahoma, do ordain and establish this Constitution.
OREGON, 1857, Bill of Rights, Article I. Section 2. All men shall be secure in the Natural right, to worship Almighty God according to the dictates of their consciences.
PENNSYLVANIA, 1776, Preamble. We, the people of Pennsylvania, grateful to Almighty God for the blessings of civil and religious liberty, and humbly invoking His guidance . . .
RHODE ISLAND, 1842, Preamble. We the People of the State of Rhode Island, grateful to Almighty God for the civil and religious liberty which He hath so long permitted us to enjoy, and looking to Him for a blessing . . .
SOUTH CAROLINA, 1778, Preamble. We, the people of the State of South Carolina, grateful to God for our liberties, do ordain and establish this Constitution.
SOUTH DAKOTA, 1889, Preamble. We, the people of South Dakota, grateful to Almighty God for our civil and religious liberties, establish this . . .
TENNESSEE, 1796, Art. XI. III. That all men have a natural and indefeasible right to worship Almighty God according to the dictates of their conscience . . .
TEXAS, 1845, Preamble. We the People of the Republic of Texas, acknowledging, with gratitude, the grace and beneficence of God . . .
UTAH, 1896, Preamble. Grateful to Almighty God for life and liberty, we establish this Constitution.
VERMONT, 1777, Preamble. Whereas all government ought to enable the individuals who compose it to enjoy their natural rights, and other blessings which the Author of Existence has bestowed on man . . .
VIRGINIA, 1776, Bill of Rights, XVI . . . Religion, or the Duty which we owe our Creator, can be directed only by Reason, and that it is the mutual duty of all to practice Christian Forbearance, Love and Charity towards each other . . .
WASHINGTON, 1889, Preamble. We the People of the State of Washington, grateful to the Supreme Ruler of the Universe for our liberties, do ordain this Constitution.
WEST VIRGINIA, 1872, Preamble. Since through Divine Providence we enjoy the blessings of civil, political and religious liberty, we, the people of West Virginia reaffirm our faith in and constant reliance upon God . . .
WISCONSIN, 1848, Preamble. We, the people of Wisconsin, grateful to Almighty God for our freedom, domestic tranquility . . .
WYOMING, 1890, Preamble. We, the people of the State of Wyoming, grateful to God for our civil, political, and religious liberties, establish this Constitution.

The Federal Constitution Supports Religion

But the court's documentation did not stop at the state constitutions. The decision continues by appealing to the federal constitution.

Even the constitution of the United States, which is supposed to have little touch upon the private life of the individual, contains in the first amendment a declaration common to the constitutions of all the states, as follows: 'Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,' etc.,- and also provides in article 1, 7, (a provision common to many constitutions,) that the executive shall have 10 days (Sundays excepted) within which to determine whether he will approve or veto a bill.

The Justices then summarize their findings, "There is no dissonance in these declarations. There is a universal language pervading them all, having one meaning. They affirm and reaffirm that this is a religious nation. These are not individual sayings, declarations of private persons. They are organic utterances. They speak the voice of the entire people."

Additional "Unofficial Declarations"

But the court is not finished yet. It offers additional, "unofficial" evidences that Christianity is the religion of the people. The decision reads:

If we pass beyond these matters to a view of American life, as expressed by its laws, its business, its customs, and its society, we find every where a clear recognition of the same truth. Among other matters note the following: The form of oath universally prevailing, concluding with an appeal to the Almighty; the custom of opening sessions of all deliberative bodies and most conventions with prayer; the prefatory words of all wills, 'In the name of God, amen;' the laws respecting the observance of the Sabbath . . . .

The 1892 ruling concludes with the following, "These, and many other matters which might be noticed, add a volume of unofficial declarations to the mass of organic utterances that this is a Christian nation."

But this decision is not the only one to acknowledge the obvious. In 1931, the Supreme Court affirmed the 1892 decision, and again in 1952 the Court commented: "We are a religious people whose institutions presuppose a Supreme Being."[3] This decision, Zorach v. Clauson, was cited approvingly in no less then ten other court decisions over the next eleven years!

Any Objections?

It couldn't be more clear. The phrase "In God We Trust," as stamped on our coins since 1864 and as officially adopted by Congress in 1956, is the indisputable statement of the national sentiment. This national motto does not establish a religion since it does not forcing anyone to acknowledge God against his will, it is simply a statement that recognizes the facts of the nation's religious heritage. Who could object to that?

Resources for Further Study

Footnotes
  1. In a letter to James Pollock, November 20, 1861. http://www.ustreas.gov/education/fact-sheets/currency/in-god-we-trust.shtml.
  2. See RECTOR, ETC., OF HOLY TRINITY CHURCH v. UNITED STATES, February 29, 1892, 143 U.S. 457, http://supreme.justia.com/us/143/457/case.html.
  3. ZORACH v. CLAUSON, 343 U.S. 306 (1952), 343 U.S. 306, http://supreme.justia.com/us/343/306/case.html.

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