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National Motto (official):  History

 

The phrase appears to have originated in "The Star-Spangled Banner", written by Francis Scott Key during the War of 1812. The fourth stanza includes the phrase, "And this be our motto: 'In God is our Trust.'" This version of the motto made an early appearance on the twenty dollar interest bearing notes issued in 1864 along with the motto "God and our Right".

Francis Scott Key's "Defence of Fort M'Henry" poem, which soon became

"The Star-Spangled Banner",

includes the phrase "And this be our motto: In God is our Trust" in its fourth stanza

The Reverend M. R. Watkinson, in a letter dated November 13, 1861, petitioned the Treasury Department to add a statement recognizing "Almighty God in some form in our coins" in order to "relieve us from the ignominy of heathenism". At least part of the motivation was to declare that God was on the Union side of the Civil War. Treasury Secretary Salmon P. Chase acted on this proposal and directed the then-Philadelphia Director of the Mint, James Pollock, to begin drawing up possible designs that would include the religious phrase. Chase chose his favorite designs and presented a proposal to Congress for the new designs in late 1863.

As Chase was preparing his recommendation to Congress, it was found that the Act of Congress dated January 18, 1837 prescribed the mottoes and devices that should be placed upon the coins of the United States. This meant that the mint could make no changes without the enactment of additional legislation by the Congress. Such legislation was introduced and passed on April 22, 1864, allowing the Secretary of the Treasury to authorize the inclusion of the phrase on one-cent and two-cent coins.

An Act of Congress passed on March 3, 1865, allowed the Mint Director, with the Secretary's approval, to place the motto on all gold and silver coins that "shall admit the inscription thereon". In 1873, Congress passed the Coinage Act, granting that the Secretary of the Treasury "may cause the motto IN GOD WE TRUST to be inscribed on such coins as shall admit of such motto".

The use of "In God We Trust" has been interrupted. The motto disappeared from the five-cent coin in 1883, and did not reappear until production of the Jefferson nickel began in 1938. However, at least two other coins minted in every year in the interim still bore the motto, including the Morgan dollar and the Seated Liberty half dollar. In 1908, Congress made it mandatory that the phrase be printed on all coins upon which it had previously appeared. This decision was motivated after a public outcry following the release of a $20 coin which did not bear the motto. The motto has been in continuous use on the one-cent coin since 1909, and on the ten-cent coin since 1916. It also has appeared on all gold coins and silver dollar coins, half-dollar coins, and quarter-dollar coins struck since July 1, 1908. Since 1938, all US coins have borne the motto.

During the Cold War era, the government of the United States sought to distinguish itself from the Soviet Union, which promoted state atheism and thus implemented antireligious legislation. The 84th Congress passed a joint resolution "declaring IN GOD WE TRUST the national motto of the United States". The law was signed by President Eisenhower on July 30, 1956. The United States Code at 36 U.S.C. § 302, now states: "'In God we trust' is the national motto."

The same day, the President signed into law a requirement that "In God We Trust" be printed on all U.S. currency and coins. On paper currency, it first appeared on the silver certificate in 1957, followed by other certificates. Federal Reserve Notes and United States Notes were circulated with the motto starting from 1964 to 1966, depending on the denomination. (Of these, only Federal Reserve Notes are still circulated.)

Representative Charles Edward Bennett of Florida cited the Cold War when he introduced the bill in the House, saying "In these days when imperialistic and materialistic communism seeks to attack and destroy freedom, we should continually look for ways to strengthen the foundations of our freedom".

In 2006, on the 50th anniversary of its adoption, the Senate reaffirmed "In God We Trust" as the official national motto of the United States of America. In 2011 the House of Representatives passed an additional resolution reaffirming "In God We Trust" as the official motto of the United States, in a 396–9 vote. According to a 2003 joint poll by USA Today, CNN, and Gallup, 90% of Americans support the inscription "In God We Trust" on U.S. coins.

The phrase has been incorporated in many hymns and religio-patriotic songs. During the American Civil War, the 125th Pennsylvania Infantry for the Union Army assumed the motto "In God we trust" in early August 1862.

In Judaism and Christianity, the official motto "In God We Trust" resounds with several verses from the Bible, including Psalm 118:8, Psalm 40:3, Psalm 73:28, and Proverbs 29:25. In Islam the word for the concept of reliance on God is called Tawakkul; the phrase "In God We Trust" is found in two places of the Koran, in Surah 10 Yunus, as well as Surah 7 Al-A'raf, although several other verses reinforce this concept. Melkote Ramaswamy, a Hindu American scholar, writes that the presence of the phrase "In God We Trust" on American currency is a reminder that "there is God everywhere, whether we are conscious or not."

After the September 11 attacks in 2001, many public schools across the United States posted "In God We Trust" framed posters in their "libraries, cafeterias and classrooms". The American Family Association supplied several 11-by-14-inch posters to school systems and vowed to defend any legal challenges to the displaying of the posters.

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National Motto (official) History

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