Democratic viewpoints on politics, policy and activism

Why the National Motto is Misguided

I have a simple request. Stop placing, “In God We Trust” on the back of your Police Vehicle.

In 2015, some police departments started putting the motto, “In God We Trust” on the back of their city’s police vehicles. This move by Police officers was met with both praise and criticism.

The critics say that 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.

A Sherriff from a police department in the Florida panhandle, Frank McKeithen, said in an interview with The Washington Post that he’s not trying to hide that the phrase is religious and that 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 that Law enforcement is not about one’s personal religious morals. While our laws are based on a belief system, I would argue that that belief system does not come from religion, and it would even be dangerous if it was based on any religion at that.

Now let’s get back to the discussion at hand. 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.

Before “In God We Trust” was made our nation’s motto in 1956, three of our founding fathers, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams and Benjamin Franklin were tasked to make a seal and a motto for the new nation.

Let’s take a quick look at these three men’s opinions on religion. Franklin was a deist who didn’t believe in the divinity of Jesus Christ.

Adams, as president, signed the Treaty with Tripoli in 1797, which reassured the nation of Tripoli, that the United States was not founded, in any sense, on the Christian religion. Jefferson actually created his own bible and left out all the miracles that came with Christ, including the divine birth and resurrection.

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” was first placed on a U.S. coin. During this time, the Civil War was still going on and religious sentiment reached a peak. Then on the 30th of July, 1956, President Dwight D. Eisenhower officially made “In God We Trust” the nation’s motto. Now, why would he do this?

Let’s look at this time period. The Cold War was at a fever pitch. A witch hunt started a couple of years earlier for any government official that was thought to be a Communist, this was called the Red Scare. This witch hunt was led by Republican Senator Joseph McCarthy. McCarthy would accuse many government officials of being members of the communist party.

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 job.

Thanks to the Red Scare, McCarthyism and people thinking communists were God-less people, McCarthy led the push to add the phrase, “Under God” to the Pledge of Allegiance in 1954. Two years later, “In God We Trust” was officially adopted as our National motto.

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

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