Washington, DC – In a 3-0 decision, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in Washington, DC, ruled that the National Motto, “In God We Trust,” is constitutional and does not violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. Quoting the 1970 decision in Aronow v. United States, the Court wrote: “It is quite obvious that the national motto and slogan on coinage and currency ‘In God We Trust’ has nothing whatsoever to do with the establishment of religion.”
Judges David B. Sentelle, Karen L. Henderson, and David S. Tatel cited four cases in their succinct ruling. In each case, “In God We Trust” has been upheld against constitutional challenges. One of the precedents cited by the Court of Appeals comes from the 1996 opinion in Gaylor v. United States, which says: “[T]he statutes establishing ‘In God We Trust’ as our national motto and providing for its reproduction on United States currency do not violate the Establishment Clause.” The case began when an atheist from Texas, Carlos Kidd, filed suit in the Federal District Court in the District of Columbia. The District Court wrote: “Courts have consistently held that the phrase ‘In God We Trust’ does not violate the Establishment Clause.” Kidd then appealed and lost again.
“In God We Trust” became the National Motto in 1956. Passed during the Cold War, the Congressional Record states: “In these days when imperialistic and materialistic Communism seeks to attack and destroy freedom, it is proper [to] remind all of us of this self-evident truth [that] as long as this country trusts in God, it will prevail.” The phrase appears in the final stanza of The Star-Spangled Banner, written in 1814 by Francis Scott Key, which later became the National Anthem (“And this be our motto: ‘In God is our trust’”). A law in 1865 allowed the motto to be used on coinage. In 1908 most coins were required to carry the motto. The penny and nickel were later included in 1938, and from that time to the present all coins have been required to carry the motto. “In God We Trust” is the National Motto and the State Motto for Florida. It is also the motto for Nicaragua.
Mathew Staver, Founder of Liberty Counsel and Dean of Liberty University School of Law, commented: “The National Motto, ‘In God We Trust,’ is obviously constitutional. The First Amendment was never meant to erase from history references to God or public acknowledgments of God.”