On the day after celebrating the men and women who died fighting for freedoms and liberties that our country was founded, Cleveland County Board of Commissioners voted to approve a resolution to display the National Motto “In God We Trust” at the county offices. “It is no secret that our country was founded by God fearing men based on the principles of Judeo-Christian values. We say in the Pledge of Alliance, “under God” and in the original poem by Francis Scott Key it states – and this be our Motto, in God be our Trust. The display of In God We Trust is a show of patriotism and unity for this great country,” Commissioner Rod Cleveland said after the meeting.
There are hundreds of cities, towns and counties that have passed similar resolutions and are currently displaying the motto “In God We Trust”. California has had the most cities and counties approve the resolution and display the motto. Cities and counties in Arkansas, Georgia, Minnesota, Michigan, Texas and Oklahoma are displaying the motto. Here in Oklahoma, Chouteau, Oaks, Slaughterville and Ottawa County approved the resolution within the past year.
Commissioner Sullivan requested the District Attorney to ask for an opinion from the Oklahoma Attorney General’s Office on the displaying of the motto. That’s Just Bob spoke to an attorney in the office that asked not to be named. We asked what the process was in asking for an opinion and what that opinion would be. He could not give us much information other than that the District Attorney would have to request the opinion and that it had to be related to current law or court case ruling. He stated if the county was seeking permission from the AG’s office, that would probably just not happen.
The federal Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously agreed with our position that the motto is constitutional. In it decision filed March 11, 2010, the Ninth Circuit explained that displaying such a venerable reminded of our national heritage and identity as the national motto is unquestionably constitutional.
The Ninth Circuit’s ruling follows every other court and judge in the nation that has considered the national motto, including the following:
- Lambeth v. Board of Commissioners of Davidson County, 407 F.3d 266 (4th Cir. 2005), held a county board’s decision to authorize inscription of “In God We Trust” on facade of county government center did not constitute a violation of the Establishment Clause.
- Schmidt v. Cline, 127 F. Supp.2d 1169 (D. Kan. 2000), held constitutional the placement in a county building of posters bearing the motto. The court relied on a previous Tenth Circuit decision finding that the motto has a secular purpose akin to Justice O’ Connor’s well-known references to “ceremonial deism”.
- Myers v. Loudoun County School Board, 251 Supp. 2d 1262 (E.D. Va. 2003), upheld as constitutional a school’s implementation of a stat statute requiring schools to post the national motto in every public school building.
The Supreme Court has talked about the motto on several occasions and each time has said it passes Constitutional muster.
For example in one of the “big” religious cases, Lynch v. Donnelly, 465 U.S. 668 (1984) they said that cities could not do religious displays but specifically said:
“The Court has sometimes described the Religion Clauses as erecting a “wall” between church and state …The metaphor has served as a reminder that the Establishment Clause forbids an established church or anything approaching it. But the metaphor itself is not a wholly accurate description of the practical aspects of the relationship that in fact exists between church and state. No significant segment of our society and no institution within it can exist in a vacuum or in total or absolute isolation from all the other parts, much less from government. “It has never been thought either possible or desirable to enforce a regime of total separation…. Nor does the Constitution require complete separation of church and state; it affirmatively mandates accommodation, not merely tolerance, of all religions, and forbids hostility toward any. … Indeed, we have observed, such hostility would bring us into “war with our national tradition as embodied in the
First Amendment’s guaranty of the free exercise of religion.”… in Justice Douglas’ opinion for the Court validating a program allowing release of public school students from classes to attend off-campus religious exercises. Rejecting a claim that the program violated the Establishment Clause, the Court asserted pointedly: “We are a religious people whose institutions presuppose a Supreme Being.” … Thus, it is clear that Government has long recognized—indeed it has subsidized—holidays with religious significance. Other examples of reference to our religious heritage are found in the statutorily prescribed national motto “In God We Trust,” 36 U.S.C. § 186, which Congress and the President mandated for our currency, see 31 U.S.C. § 324, and in the language “One nation under God,” as part of the Pledge of Allegiance to the American flag. That pledge is recited by thousands of public school children—and adults—every year.
Below is the history of the National Motto “In God We Trust”
- In September of 1814, during the British bombardment of Fort McHenry, Francis Scott Key composed the poem The Star Spangled Banner, of which the last line of the second and final stanza is,“and this be our Motto, in God be our Trust.”
- In 1861, Chief Justice Chase of the Supreme Court wrote the following in a letter to the director of the U.S. Mint: “No nation can be strong except in the strength of God, or safe except in His defense. The trust of our people in God should be declared on our national coins.” In 1866, Congress enacted legislation authorizing the inscription of the phrase “In God We Trust” to be placed on certain coins.
- In 1931, Congress passed the act officially designating the composition of the words and music of the The Star Spangled Banner as our National Anthem.
- In 1954, during the Dwight D. Eisenhower Administration, Congress approved the words “Under God” to be added to our Pledge of Allegiance. In our pledge, the United States is described as“One Nation under God.”
- In 1955, Congress mandated the inscription of “In God We Trust” on all coins and paper currency.
- In 1956, during the Eisenhower Administration, Congress and the Supreme Court voted in favor of declaring “In God We Trust” as the national motto of the United States.
- The United States Code itself contains religious references. For example, Congress has directed the President to “…set aside and proclaim a suitable day each year as a National Day of Prayer, on which the people of the United States may turn to God in prayer and meditation at churches, in groups, and as individuals.”
- Our National Motto, “In God We Trust,” is prominently engraved on the wall above the Speaker’s dais in the Chamber of the House of Representatives and is reproduced on every coin minted and every dollar printed by the Federal Government.
- Our Judicial Branch acknowledges the central role of religion in our society. All federal courts open sessions requesting that “God save the United States and this honorable Court.”
- The Ten Commandments are posted in the U.S. Supreme Court Chambers directly above the bench where the nine Supreme Court Justices sit.
We encourage the other cities Cleveland County and Oklahoma and the counties in our state to follow the lead of Cleveland County, Slaughterville, Ottawa County, Chouteau, and Oaks to stand up for our founding values and display “IN GOD WE TRUST” at their city hall or county offices.