Does Religion Hold a Place in a Secular Government?

Patrick Kissel, Reporter

In God We Trust. The national motto, established in 1956 and reaffirmed in both the House of Representatives and the Senate in 2002, 2006 and 2011. It was ruled constitutional in 2013 by the courts, added to the state seal of Mississippi in 2014 to defend religious liberty according to the state legislature, added to police cars in Jefferson County, Illinois in 2015, made a requirement for public schools in Arkansas to display posters with it in 2017, made a requirement for schools in Florida display it in a conspicuous location and manipulated to fit into the pledge of allegiance. Those four words appear all over this country, including above the speaker’s chair in the House of Representatives, and did appear and spark much debate in Wentzville, but they shouldn’t.

In 1791, the states and the Congress ratified the bill of rights, ten amendments to the Constitution meant to guarantee the basic liberties of all Americans. The first amendment begins like this, “Congress shall make no laws respecting the establishment of religion.” If that is so, then why is the most prominent religious figure in all three abrahamic religions appearing in our statehouses, our publicly funded schools, our police cars and our pledge of loyalty?

First, schools. The public schools mandated by the laws in Arkansas and Florida are funded by taxpayers. This means that not only the salaries of those who work there are paid by people of all religions, but the entire building, including the posters or other displays of this motto. According to a survey conducted in 2017 by the American Families, as many as 34 of Americans identify as atheist or agnostic. Also in America, less than 75 percent of Americans are Christian as of 2015. Those who are atheist, or not Christians, should not have to pay taxes so that public establishments have enough funds to display the words “In God We Trust.”

Second, police. Police are also paid for by the taxpayer, and are sworn to defend the public. If they are sworn to defend the public, then they should not be displaying any sort of religious affiliation on their vehicles, as there are any number of religions in the United States. The argument could be applied here that God could refer to any of the three abrahamic religions, including Islam, and while we are all aware that these displays of God around the nation are not that, since a vast majority of America is Christian, only 1 percent of America is Jewish, and approximately 12 percent is Muslim, and there is still other minority religions in America like Hinduism and Buddhism who do not believe in any sole God, and that also does not account for the growing minority of atheists and agnostics mentioned earlier.

Of course, though, for these other two arguments to hold any weight the main argument has to also be addressed, that being whether or not the motto “In God We Trust” is both Constitutional, or demonstrates the existence of a secular nation as we so often advertise ourselves as. The answers, of course not constitutional, and of course it does not demonstrate secularism. The first amendment says congress cannot make any laws establishing religion, so what is to be interpreted when the congress makes a law establishing a religious phrase as our national motto? Is it supposed to be believed that that’s a secular phrase, and that God is a standin for fate? Also, in other nations with predominantly Christian populations you do not see this sort of national motto. For example. In France the national motto is “Liberty, Equality, Fraternity.” This does not demonstrate an established state religion at all, in fact the exact opposite with the words Liberty and Equality. The national motto of Germany is “Unity, Justice, and Freedom.” Canada’s is “From Sea to Sea.” The only countries that have national mottos establishing religion are extremist nations like Saudi Arabia, who still base their law codes primarily off of old religious texts. For example, the national motto of Saudi Arabia is “There is no other God but God and Muhammed is the Prophet of God.” This also appears on their flag.

America should not have a religious phrase as the national motto, and America should not have a religious phrase as part of the pledge of allegiance. America was established as a secular nation, which can be demonstrated in letters and publications of many of the founding fathers, as well as in the constitution itself. It should not then befall the people of America to pay for non-secular advertising in public areas that violates the true principles America was founded upon.