Is 'In God We Trust' a good motto? (video)

Nov 01, 2011

Brad Hirschfield talked about the ethical and moral issues raised by this week's biggest news stories.

- Previous discussion: Did the U.S. go too far in killing Anwar al-Awlaki's teenage son?

Today we'll be discussing a proposed measure to reaffirm 'In God We Trust' as the United States' official motto. Is now the time for this to be raised in Congress? And is it a good motto?


We'll also talk about the Obama administration's decision to end funding to a Catholic group over the group's refusal to refer trafficking victims for contraceptives or abortion.


Also up for discussion is the low number of Occupy Wall Street protestors in D.C. and other cities.

Isn't the house vote to reaffirm 'In God We Trust'  simply a waste of time and a distraction? As for the merit of the statement, well, clearly there are several opinions as to whether "we" all agree on this. The framers of our laws were of one mind on this, and while we are many generations past this time, it can be viewed as an anachronistic statement, more figurative than literal.

How can anyone defend a national motto that specifically excludes those Americans with different religious beliefs? How is "In God We Trust" any different from "In Jesus Christ We Trust"?  What unites us as Americans is not a shared belief in a supernatural deity but a shared belief that we should be free to worship or not worship as we please. Our national motto should reflect that.

The "unofficial" motto,"E Pluribus Unum," has existed in association with the United States since nearly its inception. Why risk a muddled relationship between religion and government when an extremely appropriate, evocative, and traditional motto exists?

There is an issue of church vs. state, but at this point, does it matter? Are we going to redo all our money? With everything else going on the world, this just doesn't seem to be that relevant.

"In God We Trust" has been on our coinage for a long time and as I have no problem with the motto as long as everyone can take the stand that "god" can be interpreted as each individual sees fit.

The fact that this bishops organization was federally funded to begin with is quite absurd, considering that the Roe V. Wade decision was handed down in 1973. Refusing to refer trafficking victims for contraceptives or abortion should be grounds for a denial of federal funding. The Obama administration and Health and Human Services officials did the right thing.

Where was the outrage when Planned Parenthood faced losing its funding here in the United States during the government shutdown crisis? And that would have been largely for family planning and reproductive health care.

[Follow-up on "In God We Trust"] 

It doesn't make sense that the concept of "God" can be separate from sectarian religion or from theology in general. Such a being either exists or it doesn't, and either position constitutes a sectarian religious position. A truly non-religious, non-sectarian position would be *no position* either way on that question.

[Following up on "In God We Trust"]

Considering "the vast majority" is not a relevant concern when we're talking about religion in society. That amounts to the majority religion being treated as the norm, when our society shouldn't treat any religion that way.

Last question: Not everybody can just pick up and go, but that doesn't mean that plenty of people don't sympathize with the movement. It's like writing letters to Congress, each letter represents a constituency that goes beyond the letter writer. And there are protestors now throughout the country, so the numbers are more than any one site. Why do you think this isn't a strong message?

In This Chat
Brad Hirschfield
Rabbi Brad Hirschfield is an author, radio and TV talk show host, and President of CLAL-The National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership. His On Faith blog, For God's Sake, explores the uses and abuses of religion in politics and pop culture. He wrote "You Don't Have To Be Wrong For Me To Be Right: Finding Faith Without Fanaticism." Named as one of the nation's 50 most influential rabbis in Newsweek, and one of the top 30 "Preachers and Teachers" by, he is the creator of the popular series, Building Bridges, airing on Bridges TV, and co-host of the weekly radio show, Hirschfield and Kula: Intelligent Talk Radio. For more information see
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