I don’t want a plate that says In God We Trust – that is my choice. However, several individuals with whom I have spoken said that when they have gone to the license branch to purchase their plates, they have been given the IGWT plate without asking for it. When they indicated they didn’t want the plate, they were told that the branch didn’t have any of the other plates, so they were stuck with the IGWT plate. No two ways about it, forcing an individual to accept an unwanted plate or run the risk of an expired plate is wrong; any choice that is supposed to be present is removed. Advance Indiana has a great piece on how the license branches are literally shoving the plate at citizens. For a full description of plates and charges visit the Bureau of Motor Vehicles.

One of several issues with the “In God We Trust” plate is that it is being made by the State without charging a specialty plate charge. All of us, through our taxes, pay for the production of license plates, so now we are paying for the regular plate and the IGWT plate. According to articles about the plate, it costs .50 cents more to produce than the standard plate. I realize many people don’t see this as an issue and have responded by saying “well then, I will chip in the .50 cents.” If that reasoning is used, then why not let those who have other specialty plates do the same thing?




To avoid the unfairness of the whole situation, the In God We Trust plate should be an additional choice just as the specialty plates, and the state should be charging for a specialty plate. A number of people have made the argument that other groups are allowed to have a “specialty” plate without paying for it.

Those groups of people, though, must qualify to receive the plate, for example, a veteran. Not just anyone can get a veteran’s license plate without first proving status. Another argument is that if fees were charged, to whom would the money go? Pick any number of good causes – there are certainly many out there worthy of extra contributions.

As to the motto itself, the original motto of the United States, “E Pluribus Unum“, was secular. It is Latin for “One from many” or “One from many parts” and refers to the formation of a single federal nation from a group of individual political entities, originally referred to as colonies and now states. Support for the motto, In God We Trust, did not appear until 1861, during the Civil War amidst a rise in religious fervor triggered by the War. Officially, coins began bearing the stamped words in 1865 and 1866. The printed motto on paper money came almost one hundred years later, in 1957, when it was used on the silver certificate.

The mid-to-late 1950s were a time of overt racism, religious discrimination, and political oppression in the United States. McCarthyism was at its peak, with fanaticism overtaking reason to fight the rise of “Godless” communism. The “red scare” had Congress and President Eisenhower conducting illegal and unconstitutional activity. The FBI, under the militant J. Edgar Hoover, engaged in illegal spying campaigns against Americans.

In this environment, the Pledge of Allegiance was modified on June 14 (Flag Day), 1954, when President Dwight D. Eisenhower approved adding the words “under God”. Following the change to the Pledge, Congress passed an act in 1956 making “In God We Trust” the national motto. Our paper money did not bear the motto until 1957, when it was added to the Silver Certificate.

Finally, just as a point to ponder, read the Preamble to the Constitution of the United States. No where in it does it mention reliance on or trust in God. Yet, all 50 state preambles reference God. Our Founding Fathers were certainly aware of the existence of God and chose not to implant that existence in the founding document of our Nation. Think about this too, the First Amendment places the separation of church and state above all other clauses in the amendment, even before freedom of speech or the press. And, finally, ask what is the purpose of putting religious mottos or words on money, license plates, the Pledge, or in state preambles? Did it save us from a Civil War? or World Wars? or countless military involvements? or poverty? or racism? or genocides?

Religious beliefs should be personal. However, just as many individuals tend to turn to God and the church in times of crisis, so also did our nation during times of collective crisis and because of those times of collective crisis we now have mottos mistakenly intended to provide a theoretical blanket of protection.


About Charlotte A. Weybright

I own a home in the historical West Central Neighborhood of Fort Wayne, Indiana. I have four grown sons and nine grandchildren - four grandsons and five granddaughters. I love to work on my home, and I enjoy crafts of all types. But, most of all, I enjoy being involved in political and community issues.
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13 Responses to IN WHOM DO WE TRUST?

  1. timethief says:

    I am a Buddhist and I would be appalled if I had to have a licence plate proclaiming belief in any kind of god.

    Clearly many Americans are so off-base that they have forgotten what “freedom of religion” is. They have also forgotten that they murdered and stole their country from it’s original inhabitants who had an entirely different belief systems.

    Also your founding father’s religious bents are not all Christian as you have stated. Washington gives us little in his writings to indicate his personal religious beliefs. As noted by Franklin Steiner in “The Religious Beliefs Of Our Presidents” (1936), Washington commented on sermons only twice. In his writings, he never referred to “Jesus Christ.” He attended church rarely, and did not take communion – though Martha did, requiring the family carriage to return back to the church to get her later.

    Thomas Jefferson made a compilation of the more rational and humane teachings of Jesus, the “gold,” as he termed it, which has since been published. Some superficial readers have supposed this to be an acknowledgment of Christ. Orthodox teachers, however, know. better and ignore the book. For the man Jesus, Jefferson, like Rousseau, Paine, Ingersoll, and other Freethinkers, had nothing but admiration; for the Christ Jesus of theology, nothing but contempt.

    On the 24th of June Jefferson wrote a letter declining, on account of his infirmities, to be present. In this letter a new Declaration of Independence is proclaimed. Bravely he writes:

    “All eyes are opened or opening to the rights of man. The general spread of the light of science has already laid open to every view the palpable truth, that the mass of mankind has not been born with saddles on their backs, nor a favored few booted and spurred, ready to ride them legitimately, by the grace of God.”

    Those were the last words Jefferson penned. Ten days later — on the day that he had contributed so much to make immortal — the Sage of Monticello breathed his last. On the same day, too, died John Adams. Politically at variance these men differed but little in theology. Writing to Jefferson on the 5th of May, 1817, Adams, giving expression to the matured conviction of eighty-two eventful years, declares.

    “This would be the best of all possible worlds if there were no religion in it.”

    To this radical declaration Jefferson replied:
    “If by religion, we are to understand sectarian dogmas, in which no two of them agree, then your exclamation on that hypothesis is just, ‘that this would be the best of worlds if there were no religion in it’ ” (Works, Vol. iv., p. 301).

  2. Thank you for the interesting post. I perhaps should have clarified my statement “Our Founding Fathers were certainly aware of the existence of God and chose not to implant that existence in the founding document of our Nation.” The existence of God is up to the belief of the individual, therefore, the Founding Fathers refused to take a collective position by omitting any reference to God in the Preamble.

  3. Andy says:

    While many of our fellow Hoosiers see the IGWT license plates as blessing and an affirmation of their faith, what I find disturbing is the “group-think” ideology that accompanies this mindset. I find that many people of religious faith are indoctrinated into a particular religion from a very early age. All too often, there is never any encouragement or support to explore one’s own unique spirituality or lack there of. In this area in particular, which is heavily dominated by Christians, many different faiths never have the opportunity to be considered, introduced or tested by curious individuals. Just as each human differs in size, shape, likes, dislikes, it is hard for some Christians to acknowledge Christianity may not be the right choice for some people. Many devout Christians will most certainly be offended by this notion and/or feel threatened by this statement. Tolerance and acceptance tend to be overlooked, and people who are of a different religion or of none at all, often times feel ostracized by these same Christians.

    I always find it interesting as to how many emails I receive that are signed with a “God Bless You” or conversations I have with people who tell me to have a “Blessed Day”. If I were to reply to these same individulas with a statement such as, “May Darwin’s Theory of Evolution Guide You Through The Day”, I would guess I would eventually offend more than a few people.

  4. Andy:

    Don’t forget message machines. I don’t know how many times I have had to listen to a message machine that also says “Have a blessed day.”

  5. Alex says:

    When the state put out its ugly standard plate five years ago — and blindsided the public that voted for the design by placing the state government’s URL prominently across the bottom — citizens were informed that they could place a decal across the URL with the slogan that had originally been part of the design. A firm in Elkhart produced the decals. Unfortunately they were prone to fading and falling off. Great idea though…

    I think those who get stuck with IGWT plates should have the right to cover the offending language with a decal as well. Or amend it. How’s about:

    “In God We Trust; All Else Needs Monitoring.”

  6. We can make everybody happy by letting people pick out their own messages. How about “In Goddess We Trust” or “Allah akbar”? Hasn’t it always been possible to get “CHRIST” or “WWJD” on a personalized plate?

    State law says that you can get your plate renewed in any BMV branch in the state. You can even go to another county. In fact, every branch has to keep a stockpile of plates for all 92 counties. I would recommend calling in advance to make sure they have the plate that you want.

  7. Robert:

    I am not sure about the phrases you mention – mainly because any distinct phrase would require an additional plate press and tooling. That could be very costly if only one person wanted a certain motto or saying on the plate.

    I do disagree with the idea of having to call ahead to see whether the necessary plate is in stock. Before the IGWT plate, I never heard of people having to worry about the availability of the proper plate. I have never once in the many years of renewing plates had to ask whether the plate was in stock. This appears to be another dynamic that the IGWT plate has created.

    And, yes, if I want to renew in another county, I should call ahead to check, but not in my home county. The license branches in Allen County should maintain a stock of plates sufficient to cover the registration numbers. What stocking the IGWT plate does is change the numbers that the license branches stock. If they are, indeed, stocking both plates, then carrying the IGWT plate decreases the number of standard plates.

    If you check out Tennessee, the state has a plate that carries a picture of a bald eagle with the motto, In God We Trsut.” However, it is sold as a specialty plate with a total cost of $91.50. The website notes that the additonal $35 is split out with a fee of $15.38 going to the American Eagle Foundation.

    I still believe the IGWT plate should be a specialty plate with an additional fee. Tennessee is an example of doing that with the fee generated going to an organization. So the argument that some make that we wouldn’t know who to give the fee to is pointless.

  8. Andy says:

    Robert – Rather than trying to keep everyone happy by providing a specialized Indiana license plate which professes and advertises each driver’s religious affiliation, why not maintain the separation of church and state ?

  9. Dave Valparaiso says:

    This is VERY important stuff
    Typical boomer crap.

  10. Just curious – what is typical “boomer crap?”

  11. J. McDaniel says:

    “This is very important stuff. Typical boomer crap.”

    If the plates said “There is no God” or “In Allah we trust” I’ll bet you’d care.

  12. J. McDaniel:

    You make a good point. If some other slogan touting a religious entity other than “God” was plated, you would hear all kinds of outcry.

    I still believe that religion is a private thing and does not need to be plastered on our vehicles, etc. I always get the impression that those who would display these indicia of religiosity are trying to convince themselves.

  13. little debbie says:

    charlotte you did an awsome job of covering the historical reasons for our motto and the words on our money! when i recently renewed my plate i was prepared to be offered the igwt plate..but was happy i was handed the “generic” one. i was prepared to decline the igwt because i dont 😉 . i feel religious beliefs are fine for those who have faith in them, and that no religious faith is equally fine. my problem is with thr religious afiliates who believe our secular government should legislate their opinion of sin. i think the separation of church and state is an important protection mechanisn for personal religious freedom AND secular freedom. we are intentionally ruled by a secular government for good reason. oh and too bad we never were informed what “typical boomer crap” is LOL!

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