"In God We Trust"
Recently, in the name of the First Amendment, The Ten Commandments have been removed from a courthouse. A lawsuit was filed to remove the phrase “under God” from the Pledge of Allegiance, and, now, there is a lawsuit to remove “in God we trust” from our money. Does the First Amendment prohibit government references to God?
The First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States says, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” It contains two clauses. The first clause is known as the Establishment Clause and the second is known as the Free Exercise Clause.
At the time the Constitution was written, England and Europe had (and still has) state churches. Against that backdrop, the Founding Fathers, on one hand, wanted to prevent the federal government from establishing a state religion, and on the other, they wanted to promote religion. Hence, the Establishment Clause and the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment were put into the Constitution.
Many today believe that the Constitution mandates a “wall of separation” between church and state. There is no such phrase in the Constitution. That phrase was written years after the Constitution and the Bill of Rights were adopted. It comes from a letter written in 1802 by Thomas Jefferson to the Danbury Baptist Church assuring them that he believed the First Amendment built “a wall of separation between church and state.” What he meant by that was no more than what the First Amendment states, namely, that the federal government cannot establish a national religion. Thomas Jefferson also said, “Can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of people that these liberties are a gift of God?” Apparently, he did not believe in the separation of the state from God.
There is nothing, absolutely nothing, in the First Amendment—or anywhere else in the Constitution—or in Thomas Jefferson mandating a separation of God and government. The First Amendment prevents the federal government from establishing a national religion. It does not prohibit government references to God, nor religion from influencing government!
The United State Senate has a paid-by-taxpayers chaplain. In 1983, the United States Supreme Court ruled that congressional chaplains did not constitute a violation of the First Amendment’s Establishment Cause (Marsh v. Chambers). Chief Justice Warren Berger wrote, “Clearly the men who wrote the First Amendment religious clauses did not view paid legislative chaplains and opening prayers as a violation of that amendment.”
If paid chaplains do not violate the constitution, neither does the motto, “In God we trust” on money. The motto “In Jesus Christ we trust” might, but not “In God we trust.”
© G. Michael Cocoris, 11/27/2005