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.
Of all of the complaints over state/church entanglement received by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, none has received more complaints from our membership than the inscription "In God We Trust" on currency. The Freedom From Religion sued the federal government in 1994 to have "In God We Trust" removed from currency and as our national motto.
The motto was put on all paper currency by an Act of Congress in 1955. The phrase was chosen as our national motto by an Act of Congress in 1956. It first appeared on paper currency in 1957.
The Foundation lawsuit was dismissed by a 10th-circuit federal judge on the grounds that "In God We Trust" is not a religious phrase. The Foundation appealed the dismissal.
- Foundation Lawsuit Challenges "In God We Trust" Motto - Freethought Today, June/July 1994
- "In God We Trust" Legal Complaint - Freethought Today, June/July 1994
- "In God We Trust" Appeal - Freethought Today, January/February 1996
- In God We Trust Appealed To High Court - Freethought Today, May 1996
- US Supreme Court Turns Down Foundation Appeal - Freethought Today, June/July 1996
- See Court Challenges