General Question

bodyhead's avatar

How can money that says "In God we Trust" come from a country with a true seperation of church and state?

Asked by bodyhead (5520points) November 24th, 2008

This question occured to be because of an email I got where I was being encouraged to not accept any money that does not say In God we Trust. I would more likely only accept money without religious phrases on it.

I would prefer to pass currency without any of the following phrases:
In Xenu we trust
In God we trust
In Allah we trust
In Zeus we trust

(It turns out that it actually does say “In God we Trust” and the snopes article makes people who believe chain letters look like idiots)

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26 Answers

asmonet's avatar

That email is a joke, as in accept all money.

Occasionally, I notice the phrase on coins and money, but I don’t really care.

jsc3791's avatar

Can you still buy things with it?

If so, I don’t so much mind whatever it says on it within reason.

KatawaGrey's avatar

Well, it doesn’t say which god so all of us who follow some kind of organized religion are covered. :)

asmonet's avatar

@Katawa: Unless you’re a polytheist. :)

KatawaGrey's avatar

@asmonet: curses, foiled again. Maybe it should say “In any spiritual figure or figures you trust should you choose to trust any at all.” This covers the atheists too.

augustlan's avatar

It can’t. I know it does, but that, along with “under God” in the pledge of allegiance just says to me that we don’t have a true separation of church and state.

bodyhead's avatar

KatawaGrey: Now that, I could get behind.

El_Cadejo's avatar

I am all in favor of reprinting our currency with “In Zeus we trust”

dalepetrie's avatar

I remember when I first joined up here and was on one of the chat rooms, and they were discussing de-Goding money, different techniques and such as well as the legal ramifications.

That said, if you have any 50s or 100s lying around that say In God We Trust on them and you don’t want them, PM me and I’ll send you my address (hell, I’ll take 20s, 10s, 5s, 1s and even 2s if you got em).

critter1982's avatar

Well “In God we Trust” is the motto of the United States. If people want to eliminate it from the coin perhaps the first step would be to change the motto.

bodyhead's avatar

Good answer Critter… but therein lies the problem. Why is the motto of a country which has a separation of church and state, “In God we Trust”?

Lest anyone think it’s not the motto, you can verify it here

@dalepetrie, I’m on direct deposit with my work and none of my credit cards say “In God we Trust”. I’ll keep you in mind if any of my Christmas cards have cash in them.

laureth's avatar

In “Aronow v. United States,” 432 F.2d 242 (1970) in the United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit The court 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 patriotic or ceremonial character and bears no true resemblance to a governmental sponsorship of a religious exercise.” (That’s quoted from here)

We later learn: The Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc. conducted a national survey which showed that “In God We Trust” was regarded as religious by an overwhelming percentage of U.S. citizens. They initiated a lawsuit on 1994-JUN-8 in Denver CO to have it removed from U.S. paper currency and coins. They also wanted it to be discontinued as the national motto. Their lawsuit was dismissed by the district Court without trial, on the grounds that “In God We Trust” is not a religious phrase! The Tenth-Circuit federal judge confirmed the dismissal, stating in part: ”...we find that a reasonable observer, aware of the purpose, context, and history of the phrase ‘In God we trust,’ would not consider its use or its reproduction on U.S. currency to be an endorsement of religion.” (same source)

Personally, I find it incredibly religious, and greatly prefer the original motto: E Pluribus Unum – From Many, One (in reference to many states coming together to build the nation). It shouldn’t have been changed, except the Civil War seemed to make everyone religious all of a sudden.

critter1982's avatar

@body: In my opinion the reason “In God we Trust” is the motto of our country is simply because “separation of church and state” means different things to different people. To some it means that the state can make no public acknowledgement of religion, have no religious displays, and recognize no tax exemptions for churches, etc. For others it means that the government should not establish an official state church. The saying “In God we Trust” does not identify in which God we Trust. It does however acknowledge a higher deity and therefore recognizes religion, but not a particular religious institution. This is a big reason I believe that the Jefferson “Wall of Separation” letter meant that the US was not to allow an official church, and not the prior argument.

AstroChuck's avatar

@bodyhead- Just to note that Allah is the Arabic word for God, just as Dios is the Spanish word for God. Same God.
But I do agree with you. Why have any reference to anybody’s god (or gods, for that matter) on our currency?

syz's avatar

Well, if you want to consider the historical basis of our monetary unit, perhaps it should say “In gold we trust”.

laureth's avatar

Nah, we haven’t trusted in gold since 1971.

dblgeek's avatar

Separation of church and state has little to do with what is printed on US currency. It means that the government is not permitted to establish a national religion as some countries have. It means religion has no place in our government or our laws. It means the religious beliefs of our representatives or government officials should have no bearing on their eligibility to run for office or serve the people. That’s the way it should be even though it may not always seem that way, but in the US, no one religion has a right to impose its beliefs on any citizen. The fact that the motto is on our money does not affect the separation of church and state.

asmonet's avatar

@dbl: I think you missed the point.

ontheroad's avatar

I think dbl got the point.
The point is that we have separation of “Church and State” not “Religion and State”

From Wiki:
Conceptions of God can vary widely, but the word God in English—and its counterparts in other languages, such as Latinate Deus, Greek Θεός, Slavic Bog, Sanskrit Ishvara, or Arabic Allah—are normally used for any and all conceptions.

bodyhead's avatar

ontheroad, It’s crazy that you found this site and only answered this question just to agree with another new user. Nice try dbl, but of course you agree with yourself. It makes you look foolish when you do that.

Any point you make is automatically invalid when you try to convince other users through deception.

ontheroad's avatar

@body – i’m fireside. just don’t have my login info because i’m on vacation.
No idea who dbl is…

I think you have to consider where the founders were coming from when they encapsulated that tenet. The Anglican Church and the King of England were one and the same. That meant that anyone who disagreed with the state was also disagreeing with God.

Our founders had no problem with religion, they just didn’t want the possibility of an established State religion because they had seen how it had been distorted by the Monarchy.

oh, but i totally agree with Laureth, too. E Pluribus Unum is a mighty fine motto.

bodyhead's avatar

My appoligies fireside. I’ve flagged my answer up there as ‘full of lies’

I also agree with Laureth. E Pluribus Unum fits our country better.

The original American settlers were fleeing religious persecution. I believe that to some extent they were trying to say that no one God is officially God (by law). This I think we can agree on. Most thinking people (especially in the religious minority), would like to see a further separation of church and state. They’re practically walking hand in hand at this point.

You really have the religious freedom to do whatever you want. If I’m to understand the wiki article… that is, unless you’re an atheist. If you’re an atheist then you’re a second class citizen because, of course, you believe in some type of God. That’s why our national motto doesn’t include you silly atheist.

ontheroad's avatar

Yeah, I definitely understand that point of view.

awaytoolong's avatar

Check out the suit filed by Michael Newdow (same guy who sued about the pledge’s phrase “under God”) in the U.S. District Court in Sacramento, CA. As an atheist, he’s not happy about the motto on money.

scoopgracie's avatar

We don’t have separation of church and state. We “shall… [have] no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…” “In God We Trust” does not “establish” one particular god as “the” God, and its mere presence certainly does not prevent anyone (including polytheists) from having a particular religion, or affect an atheist’s right to have no religion.

In fact, removing it may even be considered establishing atheism.

Irukandji's avatar

@scoopgracie The phrase “separation of church and state” comes from Thomas Jefferson’s description of the intent and function of the Establishment and Free Exercise Clauses of the First Amendment (which you conveniently quoted for us). Those two clauses together are separation of church and state, which means that the US does in fact have separation of church and state.

The phrase “in God we trust” does not establish any particular god, but it is at least arguably an official endorsement of theism (construed broadly as the belief in one or more gods). Furthermore, preventing people from believing whatever they want or following whatever religion the choose is not necessary for violating the Establishment clause. There are ways of establishing or recognizing religion without forcing people to conform to a specific set of religious beliefs and practices.

Finally, removing the phrase “in God we trust” would not establish atheism the same way that removing the phrase “annuit coeptis” would establish God’s disapproval of the United States. Establishment requires more than mere silence, as does atheism (which is defined by more than a mere lack of belief).

This is why the US Supreme Court has rejected arguments like yours and justified the continued presence of the phrase by claiming that its usage is just a nod to historical tradition rather than a genuine religious expression (the same way Christians use pagan words and perform pagan ceremonies in a way that is stripped of their religious significance).

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