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Court decision saves 'In God We Trust'

I see in the news that the national “In God We Trust” motto used on coins since 1864 is once again safe for the time being.

Yesterday’s news reports say a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals voted unanimously in its favor.

Since this is America, that isn’t the end of it. The ruling probably will be appealed to the Supreme Court.

What makes the issue interesting for collectors is twofold: there is the numismatic history which includes the motto’s first placement on the U.S. two-cent piece in 1864 and on much of the rest of the coinage in 1866.

President Teddy Roosevelt thought the phrase sacrilegious and took it off new gold coins in 1907. Congress thought differently and ordered it back on in 1908.

Today rather than sacrilege some seek to remove the motto from the coinage because, according to their interpretation, it is a prayer and an endorsement of religion.

Same words. Diametrically opposed interpretations occurring a century apart. Same proposed remedy, but still a minority view. Things change, but then again they don’t really.

What makes the logic of the thing even more peculiar is that a separate ruling by the panel said “under God” is still OK in the Pledge of Allegiance, but one of the three judges that voted in favor of the motto on coinage thought this reference was too much and voted against it, making the ruling 2-1 decision.

The whole question has been a legal issue for basically my entire three-decade career in numismatic journalism and judging from the history of the question, it will continue to be for many years to come.

However, the breathless headlines aside, the outcome will probably stay the same.



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One Response to Court decision saves 'In God We Trust'

  1. Clair Hardesty says:

    It is important to note that the court attempted to remove the religious argument with respect to the motto by stating explicitly that it is not a religious statement at all. Basically, the court said that the motto is simply an expression of ceremony and patriotism. In so doing, they have removed thunder from both sides of the argument. They essentially said that when government refers to god, they are not referring to any notion of a deity. It is just a ceremonial word, worth preserving for that reason only.

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