FACT CHECK: CNN Contributor Says ‘In God We Trust’ Isn’t The National Motto

Kush Desai | Fact Check Reporter

Political analyst Brian Karem claimed Tuesday that “in God we trust” is not the national motto.

Verdict: False

A 1956 congressional resolution declared “in God we trust” the official U.S. motto, and the phrase is rooted in centuries of American history.

Fact Check:

Commentators have often characterized Trump’s political rhetoric as rooted in “religious” and “traditional” American values. Trump wove these themes in his first State of the Union address.

“Together, we are rediscovering the American way,” said Trump. “In America, we know that faith and family, not government and bureaucracy, are the center of American life. The motto is, ‘In God We Trust.'”

Karem, a CNN commentator, tweeted during the speech, claiming that Trump was wrong about the U.S. motto.

“WRONG. Our motto has been E Pluribus Unum – out of many One,” he wrote.

The original, unofficial motto of the country as inscribed in the U.S. seal was “E pluribus unum,” or “Out of many, one” in Latin. That changed, however, after President Dwight Eisenhower signed a 1956 resolution passed by Congress to establish an official motto of the U.S.

“The national motto of the United States is hereby declared to be ‘In God we trust,” the resolution stated.

The legislation was in large part intended to differentiate the U.S. from the communist Soviet Union, which was widely perceived as being opposed to religion. Congress also passed a resolution adding the phrase “under God” to the Pledge of Allegiance recited by American schoolchildren in 1954 for similar reasons.

Although “in God we trust” was made the official motto somewhat recently, the phrase has deep roots in American history. Among the earliest appearances of the phrase was in Francis Scott Key’s 1814 “Star-Spangled Banner,” which is now the national anthem. “And this be our motto – ‘In God is our trust,'” reads one verse.

Later, during the Civil War, increasingly religious Americans in the Union sought to recognize God on coinage. Treasury Secretary Salmon Chase ultimately suggested inscribing “in God we trust” on coins, and Congress passed legislation to do so in 1864. The motto first appeared on the two-cent coin later that year.

The motto temporarily disappeared from some coin denominations decades later and did not return until the early 1900s. After a 1955 act of Congress, the motto appeared on all paper money circulated after 1966.

Some scholars and activists have questioned the legality of the motto appearing on currency, citing the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. But courts have repeatedly struck down legal challenges over the use of the motto, and congressional Republicans have even reaffirmed “in God we trust” as the official motto twice in recent years.

“While the sentiment of trust in God is universal and timeless, these particular four words ‘In God We Trust’ are indigenous to our country,” said Rep. Charles Bennett, who introduced a bill to put the phrase on currency in 1955.

Karem did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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Kush Desai

Fact Check Reporter