Controversy over the National Motto

The establishment of “In God We Trust” as a national motto and as a fixture on United States currency is a source of controversy. Critics say the motto and its appearance on currency are a violation of the First Amendment clause that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion” and of the “wall of separation between Church and State” described by Thomas Jefferson in an 1802 letter.

Stefan Ray Aronow challenged the appearance of “In God We Trust” on currency in a 1970 lawsuit. His claim was rejected by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

The court ruled, “It is quite obvious that the national motto and the slogan on coinage and currency ‘In God We Trust’ has nothing whatsoever to do with the establishment of religion. Its use is of a patriotic or ceremonial character and bears no true resemblance to a governmental sponsorship of a religious exercise.”