In Aronow v. United States (1970) the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled:
"It is quite obvious that the national motto and the slogan on coinage and currency 'In God We Trust' has nothing whatsoever to do with the establishment of religion. Its use is of patriotic or ceremonial character and bears no true resemblance to a governmental sponsorship of a religious exercise. ...It is not easy to discern any religious significance attendant the payment of a bill with coin or currency on which has been imprinted 'In God We Trust' or the study of a government publication or document bearing that slogan. In fact, such secular uses of the motto was viewed as sacrilegious and irreverent by President Theodore Roosevelt. Yet Congress has directed such uses. While 'ceremonial' and 'patriotic' may not be particularly apt words to describe the category of the national motto, it is excluded from First Amendment significance because the motto has no theological or ritualistic impact. As stated by the Congressional report, it has 'spiritual and psychological value' and 'inspirational quality.'"
But it's not "quite obvious." The explanation offered in the decision is illogical. The suggestion is that the motto is not a religious exercise even while acknowledging that T. Roosevelt argued (long before it was the official motto) that it was sacrilegious. That doesn’t support the decision; that is in contrast to the decision. And the decision claims: “…has nothing whatsoever to do with the establishment of religion.” What else could it be? “GOD” is clearly used as a proper noun. It’s not “IN GODS WE TRUST.” It’s not “IN A GOD WE TRUST.” It’s not “IN SOME GOD WE TRUST.” It clearly invokes the everyday name of the Abrahamic god, namely, God. Aka Yahwei, aka Allah. The way the motto is written what else could “GOD” possibly mean except God? It may be argued that “GOD” refers to nature and the confluence of natural forces that rule the universe. Balderdash. That would make the whole phrase a meaningless tautology. It would essentially mean that we trust that the way things are going to be is the way things or going to be. If the motto does not refer to an actual deity that goes by the name God, then the motto is meaningless and would be almost as embarrassing as a governmental expression of trust in the god of Moses. Why would we have a meaningless motto? Why would anyone push this motto unless it actually meant something? So what does it actually mean?
“IN GOD WE TRUST” makes four claims.
1. There is a god.
2. Its name is God.
3. We trust in it. It’s not clear who “WE” is though presumably it refers to all Americans or perhaps all people.
4. It is implied that God is worthy of trust, that we *should* trust in God.
It’s not clear what we trust in it to do, or not do… but apparently we trust in it. As religious statements go this is pretty vague. It doesn’t establish a church. It doesn’t favor a denomination. But it is a pronouncement of a religious belief. In 1956 Congress made a law establishing this religious belief, contrary to the First Amendment of the Constitution. So the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals demonstrably got it wrong. They claimed it “bears no true resemblance to a governmental sponsorship of a religious exercise.” If not, then what does it bear a resemblance to?
And these are not Federal vehicles. What’s wrong with County (where they exist) or State mottos? Why don’t we see a movement to support decals of ‘Salus populi suprema lex esto’ for police vehicles in Missouri? I don’t know how anyone can believe or state with an honest heart that this is not motivated by a desire to promote a religious belief.
It is either meaningless or it is an endorsement of the Judeo-Christian-Muslim god. Either way it doesn’t fairly represent the people. It is divisive (or we wouldn’t be having this conversation). And to anyone who doesn’t trust in God or doesn’t want government entities or officials to officially trust in God, it is offensive. And as we are a nation of governments built on secular laws, not faith, it is incredible and disappointing that I am in the minority. Thanks again, Joe McCarthy.