The complete wording of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution reads: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."
But this is what many liberals and many in the news media probably only would hear if you recited it aloud: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, yada yada, or abridging the freedom of the press, yada yada." They ignore or are oblivious to the important additional words of the First Amendment.
High school cheerleaders, valedictorians and others recently have come under fire for invoking God's name on banners, speeches and public prayers. But thank God — and appellate judges — there's a simple, court-tested way to beat such attacks simply by looking at the money in your pockets.
The official national motto, "In God We Trust," has appeared on all the money made for U.S. commerce for nearly a half-century. Its use has repeatedly withstood legal challenges.
The Board of Education in Kountze, Texas, banned the display of faith-based messages at school events last fall after football cheerleaders waved banners emblazoned with references to God and an atheist group subsequently filed a protest. Attorneys for the students sued to overturn the ban. A Texas state judge ruled in their favor on May 8.
"Neither the Establishment Clause [of the U.S. Constitution] nor any other law prohibits the cheerleaders from using religious-themed banners at school sporting events," Judge Steve Thomas concluded in his summary judgment.
The atheist group that objected to the banners is no stranger to the nation's coin collectors. That group, the Freedom From Religion Foundation, has been unsuccessfully waging a legal fight for decades to get "In God We Trust" stricken from U.S. coins and paper money. Even though appeals courts have repeatedly supported such traditional, patriotic and ceremonial phrases, the Freedom From Religion Foundation filed suit yet again earlier this year, so the fight over the motto is not over.
The use of the motto on money was an outgrowth of religious fervor during the Civil War. Mark Watkinson, a Baptist minister from Pennsylvania, sent a letter in 1861 to Salmon Chase, President Lincoln's Treasury Secretary. Chase then wrote to U.S. Mint Director James Pollock, and the Mint finally used "In God We Trust" in 1864 on new-denomination two-cent coins introduced into circulation that year.
In 1908, a federal law was passed requiring the words' appearance on U.S. coins, although the cent, nickel and dime were exempted. The 1908 law resulted from an impulsive decision by President Theodore Roosevelt. In 1907, Roosevelt had ordered the Mint to omit the words from gold coins. But Congress mandated use of the motto after church groups detected the change and complained about the omission.
Public Law 140, requiring the motto on all U.S. coins and paper money, was introduced in the 84th Congress and signed into law by President Eisenhower in 1955. A year later, Eisenhower signed another bill formally establishing "In God We Trust" as the national motto.
Half a century before "In God We Trust" first debuted on a U.S. coin, a similar phrase turned up in a poem written during the War of 1812 by lawyer-patriot Francis Scott Key. That poem soon became the lyrics of "The Star-Spangled Banner," which was proclaimed the official national anthem in 1931. The following words are in the fourth stanza and provide a link between the official national motto and the official national anthem:
Then conquer we must, when our cause is just
And this be our motto: "In God is our trust."
Who would rule that the words "In God is our trust" from our patriotic national anthem — which is played before many public events — or that our national motto, "In God We Trust," can't be used on banners or speeches used at those events?
About the Author: Mike Fuljenz
Mike Fuljenz is a member of the Moneynews Financial Brain Trust. Click Here to read more of his articles. He is also the editor of the NLG award winning Michael Fuljenz Metals Market Weekly Report. Discover more by Clicking Here Now.
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