The “In God We Trust” motto first used on the two-cent piece in 1864 coasted through another legal challenge.
A panel of three judges on the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals voted unanimously in its favor.
Use of “In God We Trust” on coinage does not violate the Constitution’s separation of church and state, the decision ruled.
The legal question was raised in the first place in a suit by Michael Newdow of Sacramento, Calif. He challenged the use of the national motto on coins along with the phrase “Under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance.
However, the Pledge garnered support from only two of the three judges. An appeal to the Supreme Court is expected.
The motto, which was first used during the Civil War was ordered placed on the two-cent piece by the Treasury secretary following correspondence with a Pennsylvania clergyman, the Rev. N.R. Watkinson of Ridleyville, Pa.
His letter, dated Nov. 13, 1861, was written when it was dawning on Americans that the Civil War was not going to be short and the outcome was very much in doubt.
Watkinson wrote to Salmon P. Chase: “You are about to submit your annual report to Congress respecting the affairs of the national finances. One fact touching our currency has hitherto been seriously overlooked. I mean the recognition of the Almighty God in some form in our coins.
“You are probably a Christian. What if our Republic were now shattered beyond reconstruction. Would not the antiquaries of succeeding centuries rightly reason from our past that we were a heathen nation. What I propose is that instead of the goddess of liberty we shall have next inside the 13 stars a ring inscribed with the words ‘perpetual union’; within this ring the allseeing eye, crowned with a halo; beneath this eye the American flag, bearing in its field stars equal to the number of the States united; in the folds of the bars the words ‘God, liberty, law.’
“This would make a beautiful coin, to which no possible citizen could object. This would relieve us from the ignominy of heathenism. This would place us openly under the Divine protection that we have personally claimed. From my heart I have felt our national shame in disowning God as not the least of our present national disasters.”
The motto was put on most of the rest of U.S. coins in 1866. The last coin not to carry the motto was the Buffalo nickel, 1913-1938.
President Teddy Roosevelt thought the use of the motto on coins to be sacrilegious and took it off new gold coins in 1907. Congress thought differently and ordered it put back in 1908.