In God We Trust Signs, Our National Motto, and Religion in Schools – A Look at Our History

In God We Trust sign delivered to local school

Patriot Mobile’s donation of “In God We Trust” framed posters to Texas schools has generated an immense response from the public. Thank you to all of you who reached out in support of our efforts! 

Our donation of the posters has also sparked a larger discussion: Why put God back into our public schools? Shouldn’t there be a separation of church and state?  

These are great questions! 

The History of Our National Motto: In God We Trust

Today, many Americans have been led to believe that God has no place in the public square. But contrary to what the legacy media and academia tell us, our Founding Fathers never intended it to be that way. Throughout our history, we openly honored God and have not been hostile to religion until recently. 

Our national motto “In God We Trust” is one example. This faith-based motto declares that as a nation, we trust in a higher power. It doesn’t say, we trust in government or people, but in God, as it says in Psalm 118:8, “It is better to trust the Lord than put confidence in man.”  

While this official motto was adopted by the U.S. Congress in 1956 under President Dwight D. Eisenhower, the history of “In God We Trust” goes further back. During the turmoil of the Civil War, devout pastors urged the government to acknowledge God in some form on our coins. Secretary of the Treasury, Salmon P. Chase, agreed, and wrote the following letter in 1861 to James Pollock, Director of the Mint in Philadelphia:  

Dear Sir: 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.

You will cause a device to be prepared without unnecessary delay with a motto expressing in the fewest and tersest words possible this national recognition.

The inscription, “In God We Trust,” was selected and then approved by Congress. In 1864, the first display appeared on the two-cent coin. Today, our motto appears on our coins and bills, on many government buildings, and even on police vehicles in some U.S. cities. 

National Motto on U.S. coin
"In God We Trust" inscription on U.S. five cent coin
National Motto on U.S. bill
"In God We Trust" inscription on U.S. five dollar bill

Going even further back, a variation of the motto is found in the complete version of our national anthem, “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Written by Francis Scott Key in 1814, part of the last stanza reads: “And this be our motto: In God is our trust. And the Star-Spangled Banner in triumph shall wave, O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.” 

If “In God We Trust” is our national motto that has given generations of Americans hope and security in uncertain times, why wouldn’t we display this in our public schools? Despite what the Left says, mention of God in our schools or the public square does NOT violate the Constitution. 

The Declaration of Independence that birthed this nation, acknowledges that we are endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable rights. Thomas Jefferson appealed to the “Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God” to make the case for independence from Britain. 

United States Declaration of Independence
The U.S. Declaration of Independence

When the framers of the Constitution came together in Philadelphia in 1787 to write the document to establish our government, Benjamin Franklin implored the others to seek God’s help. “I therefore beg leave to move — that henceforth prayers imploring the assistance of Heaven, and its blessings on our deliberations, be held in this Assembly every morning before we proceed to business,” Franklin said. Our Constitution was birthed on the knees of the framers! 

Our modern, revisionist version of history asserts that our Founding Fathers were not religious but were deists at most. This is simply inaccurate. President George Washington begins his Thanksgiving Proclamation of 1789 with this admission, “It is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor…” In his Farewell Address, Washington reminds us, “Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports.” Even more overtly, President John Adams declared, “The destiny of America is to carry the gospel of Jesus Christ to all men everywhere.”   

Some have asked, “What about the wall of separation between church and state? Isn’t that in the Constitution?” This phrase is not actually contained in the Constitution or Declaration of Independence. The reference is found in Thomas Jefferson’s correspondence to the Danbury Baptist Association in 1802. When you read the letter in context, it is clear that Jefferson meant a one-way wall to bar the government from interfering in the affairs of the church to protect religious liberty, not to persecute people of faith.   

The First Amendment to the Constitution affirms our freedom of religion: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…” Simply put, the government cannot establish an official church as England did with the Church of England and coerce Americans to believe one denomination over another, but it gives us the freedom to choose our own faith. Our Founding Fathers and early government leaders did not intend for us to take God out of the public square, considering their myriad writings, laws, and proclamations that openly acknowledge God. Unfortunately, the left’s misinterpretation of the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause has resulted in too many Christians being wrongfully persecuted for their religious beliefs.  

Origin of Religion in Schools – And When It Was Removed

Regarding public schools specifically, Historian David Barton reminds us that Benjamin Rush, The Father of Public Schools Under the Constitution, advocated for free public schools for all children to give them a proper education based on God’s Word. The first textbook printed in America was “The New England Primer” in 1690, which was reprinted over several centuries and used throughout America until the early 1900s. It taught our young children how to read using biblical and religious content.  

In “On the Mode of Education Proper in a Republic,” Benjamin Rush wrote in 1798, “the only foundation for a useful education in a republic is to be laid in Religion. Without this there can be no virtue, and without virtue there can be no liberty, and liberty is the object and life of all republican governments.” 

Indeed, as a nation, we affirmed the need to teach our children about God in our public schools until the 1960s. In two unprecedented rulings, the Supreme Court banned prayer in public schools in 1962 and subsequently banned Bible reading in public schools in 1963.  

Benjamin Rush on Public School
Founding Father Benjamin Rush on education

Bringing Freedom of Religion Back in School

But the tide is turning. Christians are waking up to the Left’s decades-long assault on our religious liberties and fighting back. Patriot Mobile is grateful to support organizations on the front lines of the legal battle, like First Liberty, fighting to protect the religious liberties that the First Amendment grants us. First Liberty recently won a landmark Supreme Court case involving Coach Joe Kennedy, who was wrongfully fired by his school for praying after football games. The Supreme Court upheld his constitutional right to live out his religious beliefs by kneeling in quiet prayer after games. This is a win for all Americans!

Coach Joe Kennedy prays on football field
Coach Joe Kennedy prays on the football field

In God We Trust Sign – Displaying Our National Motto In Schools

Acknowledging our national motto in our public schools, with efforts like displaying “In God We Trust” signs, is not only constitutional, it is patriotic. More than ever, our school children need to be taught and reminded that God “governs in the affairs of men” and that He is our protector and provider, our “very present help in times of trouble” according to Psalm 46:1. 

We hope you’ll join this movement to bring our national motto into our schools! 


Putting God Back Into Our Schools 

Patriot Mobile’s ‘In God We Trust’ School Poster Donations Gain National Attention 

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