“The guiding principle and prayer of this nation has been, is now, and shall ever be ‘In God We Trust.’ ”
– President John F. Kennedy
From the time our country was founded and Thomas Jefferson wrote in the Declaration of Independence that we are all created equal and given rights by our “Creator,” God and faith have been part of our nation’s unprecedented and gloried history.
“In God We Trust” originated in 1814 when Francis Scott Key composed the poem “The Star-Spangled Banner” and wrote in the final stanza “and this be our motto, in God be our Trust.”
“In God We Trust” was placed on coins in 1864. It then was signed into law as our national motto in 1956 by President Eisenhower. It was reaffirmed as our national motto by the House of Representatives (H.Con.Res 13) in 2011 by an overwhelming vote of 396-9. This resolution also supported and encouraged the public display of our national motto in all public buildings, public schools and other government institutions.
Not surprisingly, this has been challenged in the courts. Every time the courts have found that the placement of our national motto in public buildings is legal and that it doesn’t affirm any particular religion.
In July 2010, a Federal Appeals Court in the District of Columbia ruled 3-0 that the national motto was constitutional under the First Amendment. The court quoted the 1970 decision in Aronow v. United States maintaining, “It is quite obvious that the national motto and slogan on coinage and currency ‘In God We Trust’ has nothing to do with the establishment of religion … rather, its use is of patriotic or ceremonial character. …”
In addition to the failed legal arguments regarding separation of church and state, opponents argue that we should focus on more important issues such as public safety, homelessness, and street repair. But the fact is, we deal with these critical issues every day and will continue to do so. They’re not mutually exclusive. Critics also state no taxpayer money should be used and none will be; the sign will be funded privately.
We’re clearly a nation that was founded on faith. “In God We Trust” does not choose one religion over another. It simply and eloquently reminds us that those of us who believe in God should trust in Him to guide us as we make important decisions for all citizens of Fresno. Those who don’t believe have the freedom to interpret the national motto as they wish, or merely disregard it.
Before every council meeting, we have leaders from different religions and parts of the city say a prayer. We then recite the Pledge of Allegiance. It’s always meaningful, respectful and dignified. If you don’t want to participate, you don’t have to. This is what makes our country great: We respect each other though we may have different beliefs.
We are a community and a nation composed of different people, cultures, backgrounds, faiths and homelands. What we share is a love of this country and its heritage of faith, freedom and liberty.
“In God We Trust” simply represents faith, values and patriotism. That’s why 648 cities and counties across the country have placed our national motto in their chambers. In California, 131 cities and counties have done the same thing – including seven in Fresno County.
If Fresno approves “In God We Trust” in the council chamber, we will be the latest and largest city in California to do so. This is why I have asked the City Council to adopt such a resolution on Thursday, May 11, at 4 p.m.
We’re a community, like so many others across the United States, that embraces our history of faith, values, respect for all, and love of our country!
On May 11, let’s adopt a positive and strong message for generations to come at City Hall by visibly declaring, “In God We Trust.”
Garry Bredefeld represents District 6 on the Fresno City Council.