Why the American Motto is Misguided

Justin Rose
Staff Writer

I have a simple request: stop placing “In God We Trust” on the back of police vehicles.

Starting in 2015, some police departments put the motto on the back of their city’s police vehicles.

This move by officers has been met with both praise and criticism.

Critics of the placement say it violates the separation of church and state, while supporters say that it’s our nation’s motto, and displaying it on police vehicles is patriotic.

Florida Sheriff Frank McKeithen said in an interview with The Washington Post that he’s not trying to hide the religiosity of the phrase, and morals and ethics is what law enforcement is supposed to be about.

Before I get into the argument about the motto, I first want to say law enforcement is not about one’s personal religious morals or beliefs.

I would argue the belief system that governs our country does not come from any religion, and it would be dangerous if it did.

While “In God We Trust” is our nation’s motto, I feel like the majority of citizens don’t know the history behind how it got to be just that.

In 1956, the United States adopted “In God We Trust” as the country’s motto.

Nearly 200 years before that, however, three of our founding fathers (Thomas Jefferson, John Adams and Benjamin Franklin) created their own seal and motto for the new nation.

By taking a quick look at these three men’s opinions on spirituality, you can tell that this country is not founded upon religious mindsets.

Franklin was a deist who didn’t believe in the divinity of Jesus Christ, and Adams, as president, signed the Treaty with Tripoli in 1797, which reassured the nation of Tripoli the United States was not founded, in any sense, on the Christian religion.

Jefferson created his own bible, leaving out all the miracles that came with Christ, including the divine birth.

After many debates and drafts, the three men decided on the seal we still use to this day: the American Bald Eagle clutching thirteen arrows in one talon, and an olive branch in the other.

The only motto that survived the committee is “E Pluribus Unum,” which means “From many, one.” This motto also appears on the seal.

Fast forward to the year 1864. This is when “In God We Trust” became first placed on U.S. coins. During this time, the Civil War rampaged its way across the country and religious sentiment reached its peak.

Then, on July 30, 1956, President Dwight D. Eisenhower officially made “In God We Trust” the nation’s motto. Why would he do this?

Let’s look at the mid-twentieth century. The Cold War was at a fever pitch, and a witch hunt started for any government official that was thought to be a Communist; this event is called the Red Scare.

Republican Senator Joseph McCarthy led the witch hunt. McCarthy would accuse many government officials of being members of the communist party, manipulating the processes of justice in our country.

McCarthy’s accusations were so intimidating that few people dared to speak out against him.

Despite the lack of any proof, McCarthy’s investigation caused more than 2,000 government employees to lose their jobs.

Thanks to the Red Scare, McCarthyism, and the thinking of communists as godless individuals, McCarthy led the push to add the phrase “Under God” to the Pledge of Allegiance in 1954.

Two years later, “In God We Trust” became officially adopted as our national motto.

By placing that motto on government vehicles, police officers are going against what our founding fathers wanted this great nation to be: an inclusive place where everybody feels welcome regardless of their religious beliefs or lack thereof.

If the government truly wants to represent every citizen and be patriotic by placing a motto on the back of police cars, I suggest doing so by using the original motto “E Pluribus Unum,” or the opening line of our Constitution, “We the People.”


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