“In God We Trust” has long been displayed on U.S. currency. It sits above the image of president Abraham Lincoln on the one-cent coin and on the back of paper bills.
The first recorded suggestion of incorporating the phrase was from a Pennsylvania minister named Reverend M.R. Watkinson. In 1861, he asked Secretary of the Treasury Salmon P. Chase to recognize God on U.S. coins.
“This would make a beautiful coin, to which no possible citizen could object,” the minister wrote. Eventually, the words “In God We Trust” appeared on U.S. coins
In 1956, Congress passed a joint resolution declaring “In God We Trust” the national motto of the U.S. And in 1957, the motto made its first appearance on paper currency.
Some have advocated spreading the motto further. It has been added to government vehicles and license plates in multiple states.
But just as some are delighted to see the motto as a reminder of what they believe needs to be the foundation of their communities, others are equally opposed to it. Recently, a Virginia business owner added the motto to the bumper of police vehicles in her home town, and the reaction suggests that the controversy is likely to stay.
Tina Hazelwood of Hopewell, Virginia, is the owner of Graceful Touch Creations. The company’s website shows examples of T-shirts with decals and blends its products with its devotion to Christian faith, including a quote from the Bible and information on missionary work.
Last year, Hazelwood added the motto “In God We Trust” to sheriffs’ cars in Dinwiddie County, Virginia, and now she has added more of the decals to cars for the Hopewell Sheriff’s Office in her home town of Hopewell. She did it all free of charge.
“It’s such a big deal to me, the cost is really not an issue,” Hazelwood told WTVR. “For me this is a way to make others aware of God and what he does.”
After adding the decals to vehicles last year, Hazelwood got some support from residents. “I absolutely LOVE the fact that they did this!!” one woman wrote on Facebook.
Others were not so happy. “Meaningless words,” one man wrote on Facebook.
The two opinions reflect the debate happening in towns around the U.S. where the motto has been displayed in similar ways. Critics say the use of the motto on government-owned cars violates the constitution.
Groups such as the Freedom from Religion Foundation have opposed the use of the motto, with USA Today reporting the group has said the motto has “no place on government-owned cars.” The Original Motto Project wants to replace “In God We Trust” with “E Pluribus Unum,” which means “Out of many, one.”
Meanwhile, Hazelwood and others want the motto spread far and wide. They seem to agree with Reverend Watkinson’s original appeal: This is an idea “…to which no possible citizen could object.”