'In God We Trust' Bumper Stickers on Police Cruisers Should Not Be Controversial
The following commentary first appeared in the Dallas Morning News in September 2015.
Law enforcement officers face the daily prospect of targeted violence, so it is no wonder they have chosen to rally around our national motto: “In God We Trust.”
Although many view officers as heroes worthy of our greatest respect, when “In God We Trust” began appearing on their cruisers, anti-religion activists responded with threats of lawsuits.
But the county sheriffs that received these threats should know this: Both American law and American history support your use of our nation’s motto.
America has a rich history of publicly acknowledging our trust in God, a heritage Americans fought and died to defend. Although Congress officially adopted “In God We Trust” as our national motto in 1956, our tradition of trusting in God reaches into the deep history and heritage of our republic.
George Washington rested his hand on a Bible open to Psalms 121:1 as he took the inaugural presidential oath of office. Every president thereafter has followed his example, ending the oath as he did: “So help me God.”
Abraham Lincoln declared on the battlefield-turned-graveyard of Gettysburg that, “this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom,” one that “shall not perish from the earth.”
Franklin Roosevelt, as other presidents have, humbly asked, “the blessing of God” as he took his oath of office in 1933.
Presidents have set the example and Americans have integrated this trust in God throughout our history. Gen. Dwight Eisenhower sought the “blessings of Almighty God” as he sent forward the Allied Expeditionary Forces of D-Day.
Since at least 1827, American courts have opened with the words “God save the United States and this honorable Court.” “In God We Trust” was first stamped upon our coinage during the Civil War and added to our paper bills in the 1960s.
Schoolchildren have pledged allegiance to one nation, “under God,” as school starts each morning since 1954.
On Sept. 11, 2001, members of Congress gathered on the Capitol steps to sing the words so many had scrawled on highway overpasses: “God bless America!” That lyric echoed the words of “The Star-Spangled Banner,” written during the War of 1812: “And this be our motto: ‘In God is our trust.’”
Anti-religionists are on the wrong side of constitutional law when they argue that the bumper stickers constitute an illegal endorsement of religion. The U.S. Supreme Court rejected appeals seeking to remove “In God We Trust” from our coinage and the Pledge of Allegiance.
William Rehnquist, who was then chief justice, explained, by writing that “our national culture allows [the] public recognition of our Nation’s religious history and character.”
Similarly, every one of the 11 U.S. Courts of Appeal that examined the issue expressly held that our national motto and other references to our religious heritage do not violate the Constitution.
Throughout America’s history, the phrase “In God we Trust” has been honored and celebrated as an expression of what it means to be an American. Any effort to remove it from our currency, silence its public utterance, sandblast it from our walls or paint over its display should be rejected as bald efforts to rewrite our history and destroy our heritage.
And no police or sheriff department should be bullied into removing “In God we Trust” from their cruisers.