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Court Decision Saves 'In God We Trust'
March 12, 2010

I see in the news that the national “In God We Trust” motto used on coins since 1864 is once again safe for the time being.

Yesterday’s news reports say a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals voted unanimously in its favor.

Since this is America, that isn’t the end of it. The ruling probably will be appealed to the Supreme Court.

What makes the issue interesting for collectors is twofold: there is the numismatic history which includes the motto’s first placement on the U.S. two-cent piece in 1864 and on much of the rest of the coinage in 1866.

President Teddy Roosevelt thought the phrase sacrilegious and took it off new gold coins in 1907. Congress thought differently and ordered it back on in 1908.

Today rather than sacrilege some seek to remove the motto from the coinage because, according to their interpretation, it is a prayer and an endorsement of religion.

Same words. Diametrically opposed interpretations occurring a century apart. Same proposed remedy, but still a minority view. Things change, but then again they don’t really.

What makes the logic of the thing even more peculiar is that a separate ruling by the panel said “under God” is still OK in the Pledge of Allegiance, but one of the three judges that voted in favor of the motto on coinage thought this reference was too much and voted against it, making the ruling 2-1 decision.

The whole question has been a legal issue for basically my entire three-decade career in numismatic journalism and judging from the history of the question, it will continue to be for many years to come.

However, the breathless headlines aside, the outcome will probably stay the same.

Friday, March 12, 2010 2:14:32 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00) # Comments [0]

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About the Author
David C. Harper has been a coin collector since 1963. He joined the Krause Publications editorial staff in 1978 and is currently editor of Numismatic News and World Coin News. He also edits two books annually, North American Coins & Prices and Coin Digest. He is the author of the Class of '63 column that runs each week in Numismatic News. His first bylined numismatic article appeared in the June 1971 issue of Coins Magazine and his various Krause Publications assignments included a stint as editor of the magazine 1980-1983. Harper received a bachelor of science degree from the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh in 1977. He had a double major of journalism and economics.

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