Is it really ceremonial?

I have been through a fair number of council meetings about In God We Trust.  I have watched many more online.  There is always one argument that no matter what we say, the supporters always go to when backed into a corner. That is pointing at court cases and saying words like “Ceremonial” and “deism”.

I hear it time and time again.

“It is our motto and the courts have said it is not religious because it is ceremonial.”
“The courts have said that this phrase refers to a deistic/any god and not any one religion.”
“In case X they said the phrase has lost all religious meaning.”

That may all be true.  The courts have said that, several times in fact.  The only reason In God We Trust is not a violation is that the courts have said this for 40 years.

I would agree with them if it were true and the motto just sat there, being a non-religious motto.  If no one used it as justification for calling us a “Christian Nation”.  If it weren’t being placed on every council chamber in the country because some council member wants to show their faith.  If 23 states didn’t want to put it in public school classrooms to “introduce Him to students.”

So, I am left with some serious questions for anyone promoting the use of In God We Trust on public buildings, on currency, or even as our motto.

Why is that it is those that claim to be the most religious seem to be the most adamant about having this phrase everywhere?

We hear this each and every time it comes up.  A room full of people and most of those in support of the phrase use phrases like “Christian Nation”.  They go on an on about the piety of the founders.  They make claims about the Bible being the source of all of our laws.

Why should any of that matter if, like the courts have said, this phrase is just “ceremonial”?

A “ceremonial” phrase has nothing to do with proving we are a “Christian Nation”  In fact, if it is just “ceremonial”, wouldn’t that make us a “Deistic Nation”?

It doesn’t matter if the founders were all pious (which they weren’t).  Since this phrase has lost all religious meaning, the founder’s religious belief is irrelevant to the current argument.

It doesn’t matter if our laws were based on the Bible (which they aren’t). If this phrase refers to a Deistic god, the Bible has nothing to do with the god mentioned in the motto.

These are important questions I think must be asked of anyone trying to pass In God We Trust bills or signs or bumper stickers.

But I think there are some more pressing questions that they should have to answer.

If this phrase is just ceremonial or deistic, what does that say about your faith?

Are you willing to call your faith “ceremonial”?

Are you willing to call your god a “deistic” god?

Is your real intent to promote deism as the official faith of the United States?

I would bet that not a single one will answer yes to even one of these questions.

Robert Ray

Robert is the founder of The Original Motto Project. He is a avid secular activist that likes to dabble into small electronics in his spare time. He and his wife Amy co-host the Secular Yakking podcast. He lives in the Puget sound with his wife and 3 daughters.