Interview with Sen. John Marty

is a motto about unity. Literally”

As many of you will recall, back in May State Senator John Marty of Minnesota causes a small media firestorm when he adamantly opposed a bill that would require the display of in his state’s schools. For those who don’t recall, check out the video below.

We contacted Senator Marty and requested an interview. The Senator was kind enough to take time out of his busy schedule to answer some of our questions.

What do you think is the purpose behind the legislation requiring the placement of “In God We Trust” in schools?

“The author of the Minnesota legislation said that we don’t have enough respect in our society, and this legislation would build respect.  The author of the education bill that this provision was added onto said it would help unite people.

Despite their intent, the impact is the opposite.  The obscenity-laden emails and calls that I received* suggests that the push to place this government-sanctioned religious motto in schools does not build unity and certainly shows a lack of respect for me and others.

On the Sunday morning that Fox & Friends ran a TV segment about the debate in the Minnesota Senate, I came home from church to an obscene phone call that said I was anti-Christian. I was shocked by both the ironic message and the vile tone of the call. My church has plenty of Republicans and Democrats, yet I cannot picture a single one of them spewing such hatred towards others.  The politicians who say their intent was to build respect failed miserably.”

President T. Roosevelt once objected to the use of In God We Trust on currency because he felt it cheapened religion, though he did support its use on public buildings. You seem to go a step further, saying that the phrase cheapens your religious beliefs regardless of its specific use. Can you elaborate on how In God We Trust as a motto and specifically it’s display on public buildings cheapens your religious beliefs?

“I strongly agree with Theodore Roosevelt’s view of its placement on money. He described it as ‘irreverence’ and ‘dangerously close to sacrilege’.  Matters of conscience and religious faith are intensely personal, and the protection of each person’s freedom of religion is guaranteed by the first amendment.  

Having the government print ‘In God we Trust’ on our money is offensive to me, both personally – as a Christian with deeply held religious beliefs – given what my faith teaches me about money and wealth, and it is offensive to me as one who cares about those Americans who hold no religious beliefs or other religious beliefs that might also find this use offensive.  

I am not working to remove ‘In God We Trust’ from public buildings or even currency, but I believe it cheapens religion. When I was asked to support legislation for posting this government-sanctioned religious motto in schools, I spoke out in opposition. My opposition is on behalf of the 21 percent of the public who do not believe in God, and on behalf of many of the 79 percent who (according to the author of the legislation) do hold religious beliefs.”

What kind of message do you think In God We Trust sends?

“It is certainly not a welcome message to people who do not believe in God, or to people who believe in different Gods, or to people who don’t want government telling them what to believe. From all of the anti-government rhetoric I hear in American politics, I’m surprised that there isn’t more opposition to this intrusion of government into the most personal parts of our lives.

Apparently, for many people, the idea that our government is sanctioning, in relatively generic terms, what they consider to be their religion, is a comforting thought – they can show their commitment to their religion without doing anything – because the government is doing it for them.  That is not what one might expect from those who claim they want less government intrusion.”

 Do you think E Pluribus Unum (from many, one) is a better alternative? Why or why not?

“E Pluribus Unum is a motto about unity. Literally.  

Although it may have originated, back in 1776, with the concept of uniting the 13 colonies into one nation, it also admirably reflects the fact that we are truly a nation of immigrants. With about 99 percent of our population being immigrants or the children of immigrants – from England, Germany, and France; from Somalia, Ethiopia, and Kenya; from Sweden, Finland, and Norway; from Thailand, Burma, and Cambodia – from virtually every other nation on the planet – we are truly a single, beautiful nation made from many tribes and races. As far back as the nation’s founding in 1776, the founders recognized the beauty of our country welcoming all.  

Yes, E Pluribus Unum is a wonderful motto for the United States.

Would you support legislation promoting the use of E Pluribus Unum?

Yes, but as a state legislator, I have little influence with the U.S. Congress.”


We want to again thank the Senator for his commitment to the people he represents and his support for the .


Thomas Essel

Thomas Essel is an outspoken secular activist and serves as Assistant Director for The Original Motto Project. Thomas also writes for the Patheos Atheist blog Danthropology and his work has appeared in the Springfield News-Leader. You can contact Thomas at: