FACT: “In God We Trust” didn’t become the official motto of the United States until 1956.
This motto had nothing to do with our nation’s origin and didn’t appear on coinage until almost 100 years after independence. According to the U.S. Department of the Treasury, “In God We Trust” was first put on coins in 1864 at the urging of Rev. Mark Watkinson of Pennsylvania, largely “because of the increased religious sentiment existing during the Civil War.”
“In God We Trust” has always been about injecting Christianity into the public sphere and about excluding non-Christians. During the Cold War, in an attempt to differentiate the United States from the communist Soviet Union, which was officially atheist, the U.S. Congress passed a joint resolution in 1956 “declaring In God We Trust the national motto of the United States.” The resolution was passed without debate and without any dissenting votes in either the House or Senate.
FACT: Until 1956, E Pluribus Unum served as our nation’s motto.
Meaning “out of many one,” this was deliberately secular in order to include all Americans. It was first proposed in 1776 by Thomas Jefferson and Pierre Eugene du Simitiere as part of a design for the first seal of the United States of America. If that motto was good enough for the Founding Fathers and the Great Seal of the United States, it is the most appropriate and historically accurate motto for us today.
FACT: Nine states force public schools to display “In God We Trust.”
This year, Kentucky and South Dakota became the 8th and 9th states to pass “In God We Trust” display bills.
FACT: "In God We Trust" displays promote the false belief that only Christians are "real Americans.”
“In God We Trust” displays stigmatize non-Christian students by questioning their patriotism. South Dakota lawmakers claimed that trusting in the Christian god would inspire patriotism, insinuating that only Christians can be patriotic. Kentucky bill sponsor, Representative Brandon Reed, has said that “In God We Trust” reflects an essential part of what it means to be an American. In other words, only if you "trust in God” are you a “true American.”
With 42% of Americans between the age of 13 and 18 identifying as non-Christian, “In God We Trust” stigmatizes nearly half of all American students. When non-Christian students are forced to read “In God We Trust” on a regular basis, their freedom of religion is under attack. It is the equivalent of an evangelical Christian being forced to see “In Allah We Trust,” “In Yahweh We Trust,” or “In No God We Trust” in classrooms and hallways.
FACT: “In God We Trust” bills are part of a larger Christian extremist plot to attack civil rights.
In recent years, Christian nationalist organizations, under the guise of acknowledging the “heritage and history” of the United States, have begun inserting “In God We Trust” into more and more public spaces besides public schools: police cars, government buildings, and license plates.
This is all part of Project Blitz, the Christian nationalist campaign to use “In God We Trust” to build enough momentum to pass far worse bills that attack LGBTQ rights, women’s health, and freedom of religion.
Christian nationalist organizations, including the Congressional Prayer Caucus Foundation, have promoted the Project Blitz campaign by sending a guide full of copy-and-paste model bills to state legislators across the country.
FACT: We Are Offering Historically Accurate “In God We Trust” Posters to Kentucky Schools
American Atheists is committed to providing students and the public with the full and accurate history of our nation’s motto. Therefore, we are offering donations of laminated posters to Kentucky schools for use in all classrooms and libraries.
We believe that our posters are valuable educational tools that will provide students with an accurate, historical, and contextual understanding of the national motto.
Are you a teacher, principal, librarian, or parent and want your local public school to display a historically accurate “In God We Trust” poster? You can receive a free poster, courtesy of American Atheists.