This Day in History… July 30, 1956

“In God We Trust” Made Official U.S. Motto 

Although it had appeared on American coins for 92 years, “In God We Trust” didn’t become America’s official motto until July 30, 1956.

Its roots in American tradition date back to the War of 1812, when Francis Scott Key included the phrase “And this be our motto: In God is our Trust” in his “Star-Spangled Banner.” Fifty years later, as America was embroiled in Civil War, Reverend M.R. Watkinson requested that our coins include a statement recognizing God to “relieve us from the ignominy of heathenism.” He, and many others, wished to show that God sided with Union.

After special legislation was passed in April 1864, “In God We Trust” was minted on one- and two-cent coins. It appeared on various coins over the years, but not all of them. Following public outcry over its omission from a $20 coin in 1908, it was ordered that the phrase appear on all coins it had previously been minted on. It’s been on every U.S. coin produced since 1938.

The phrase became a national matter in 1956 as America was involved in the Cold War. American leaders wanted to distance ourselves from the Soviet Union, which supported state atheism. So Congress passed a resolution declaring “In God We Trust” as the national motto, signed into law by President Eisenhower.

The phrase’s use and adoption hasn’t been without controversy. President Theodore Roosevelt objected to its use on coins as he considered it sacrilege. Many others believe it symbolizes government support of religion, though several court cases have ruled against that suggestion.

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