Historically, the “In God We Trust” phrase had been around for many years before the 1950s. In 1864 it appeared on the United States’ two-cent coin, and in 1886 the state of Florida adopted it as their state’s motto, reaffirming it in 2006. In August of this year, the Missouri Sheriff’s Association voted unanimously to put the “In God We Trust” motto on all their squad cars. Rodney Herring, sheriff of Grundy County and president of the Missouri Sheriff’s Association made this statement concerning the decals: “In the times we are in right now, and how law enforcement is viewed negatively, we are looking for something positive… There is no better time than now to proudly display our national motto.”
The “In God We Trust” decal placement on law vehicles is not just a Missouri initiative either. Police and sheriff’s departments across the nation are beginning to display the motto on their vehicles. Of course, as one can only imagine in our “politically correct” society, there is opposition. The Madison, Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF)—a 23,000 member group, 75% of which claim to be atheists—has sent out letters to all Missouri sheriffs insisting that these decals be removed.
Annie Laurie Gaylor, FFRF’s leader, states in her letter that the “In God We Trust” decals violate the separation of church and state. She went on to say that a “statement about a God has no place on government-owned property,” and that “hundreds of thousands of Missourians do not believe in a monotheistic God or any god.” Posting such a motto as “In God We Trust” on patrol cars, in her opinion, signals “bias against unbelievers.” In the U.S. today, approximately 25% of the country’s population identify as non-religious individuals. While some of that number are atheists, others are just not sure or they question if there is a God, yet believing there is a Supreme Being of some type. An estimated 75% of our population do believe in a God.
In Gaylor’s letter from the FFRF, she said that if the decals are to remain on government-owned vehicles, in order to satisfy her group and other unbelievers, there should be another decal placed alongside them—one that reads “In Reason We Trust.” However, Gaylor has conceded that there is not much that can be done legally, since, in her words, “It is hard to sue, because it is our national motto.”
Many of Missouri’s sheriffs have spoken out in support of placing and keeping the national motto decal on their cars. The following are some of what has been voiced by law enforcement: “It is our national motto,” “It is on all our currency,” “Our law enforcement officers need God with them everyday,” and “It is because we believe in God and He is our protector.”
It is important to note that the decals have not been paid for by taxpayers, but rather by the sheriffs themselves or by other private individuals. Departments across the nation that have displayed the decals have been offered free legal defense, if need be, by the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF). Furthermore, U.S. courts have upheld the national motto in a variety of cases for decades.
It is hard for me to believe that the use of our national motto should create any wave of controversy across our nation. “In God We Trust” is patriotic and a part of our heritage as Americans. How is it that we have reached a point in our history where so many of our values are not being respected, and, in fact, are actually being challenged? I cannot help but wonder what this says about us as individuals and us as a nation.
May we always be supportive of those men and women in uniform who daily put their lives on the line in order that our nation’s citizenry may enjoy freedom in a country that respects law and those who carry out its enforcement.