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State Issue: In God We Trust

For an overwhelming part of U.S. history, America’s motto was purely secular, “E Pluribus Unum” (From many [come] one). E Pluribus Unum was chosen by a committee of Jefferson, Adams and Franklin. Many Americans mistakenly assume our founders chose “In God We Trust” as the motto, but nothing could be further from the truth. Our founders were committed to a secular government. For most of U.S. history, our money was likewise free of religion.

In recent years, many states have passed laws aimed at placing In God We Trust in public schools. This sudden trend is no coincidence. The laws are part of a nation-wide effort called Project Blitz, a Christian nationalist crusade that seeks to redefine what it means to be an American—so that to be an American is to be a Christian and to be a Christian is to be an American—and then to rewrite the law accordingly. Project Blitz’s goal is to favor Christians as a special class, while relegating everyone else to second-class status.

Emblazoning In God We Trust in public schools furthers that goal. The new laws in most of these states mirror the model bill in the Project Blitz handbook. Some legislators pushing these bills are unaware of their connection to Christian nationalism, while for others it’s exactly why they support them. The FFRF Action Fund is actively working to oppose the efforts of Project Blitz, including the placement of In God We Trust in public schools around the country.

The defense of “In God We Trust” relies on transparent double-speak: proponents of the motto argue that its presence on government property is consistent with the Establishment Clause because the motto is not religious (sometimes invoking the concept of “ceremonial deism”), but once that hurdle has been cleared the same proponents point to the motto as supposed evidence that the United States is a Christian nation, because the motto is both religious and specifically Christian. It is long past time for the United States to correct this historic error by returning to our original motto and replacing every instance of “In God We Trust” on government property with “E Pluribus Unum.”