Sixty Years Ago ‘In God We Trust’ Became America’s National Motto
Sixty years ago today, as the Cold War gained steam, “In God We Trust” became America’s national motto.
Signed into law by U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower, the phrase was established two years after “Under God” made it into the Pledge of Allegiance. It was also added to America’s paper currency, though no paper money was printed with the motto until 1957, according to the “The History Channel” website. Coins had been featuring the phrase since the Civil War.
In a 1954 Flag Day speech, Eisenhower explained why religion has a place in public life in the United States. “In this way we are reaffirming the transcendence of religious faith in America’s heritage and future; in this way we shall constantly strengthen those spiritual weapons which forever will be our country’s most powerful resource in peace and war.”
There have been numerous legal challenges made to the motto, though none have been successful. The first was filed in 1970. Twenty-four years later, the Freedom From Religion Foundation filed a lawsuit, urging a return to “E Pluribus Unum” (out of many, one) as America’s motto.
“We believe the motto ‘E pluribus unum’ should resume its former stature,” said Anne Nicol Gaylor, the Foundation’s then-president, in a press release. “After all, it was the motto chosen by Thomas Jefferson, John Adams and Benjamin Franklin.”
A lawsuit by atheist lawyer Michael Newdow was dismissed in 2013. The federal judge who rejected Newdow’s claims cited Supreme Court precedent and a lack of harm to Newdow and other plaintiffs by the motto.