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.