By Steve Cotugno, San Juan Capistrano
In Patrick O’Brien’s guest opinion article (“‘In God We Trust’ Letter Exposes Right Wing Play,” April 12, 2013), Mr. O’Brien quotes from the U.S. Constitution and implies that the words “In God We Trust” in a public space are somehow unconstitutional. In fact, the U.S. Supreme Court has never so ruled. The words “In God We Trust” are the national motto of the United States of America, adopted by Congress July 30, 1956. The phrase has appeared on America’s coins for over 150 years.
America’s founders did not intend to eliminate all reference to God in the public sphere. Rather, acknowledgement of God at all levels of government has existed since the founding of the republic. At the beginning of each Supreme Court hearing, the Court marshal cries out, “God save the United States and this Honorable Court.” The U.S. House and Senate have chaplains who open each session with prayer. Many city council meetings, even in California, begin with prayer. And the state constitutions of all 50 states acknowledge God.
In addition, here are just two of many quotes of our founders that support acknowledgement of God in our government:
On October 11, 1798, President John Adams, in a letter to the 1st Brigade, 3rd Division of Massachusetts’ militia declares point blank, “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”
On November 11, 1179, Thomas Jefferson, as Virginia’s governor, proclaimed a day for “Public and solemn thanksgiving and prayer to Almighty God … that He would establish the independence of these United States upon the basis of religion and virtue.”
Those who would seek to remove all reference to God in public places are simply guilty of the same intolerance they claim to abhor. They seek to isolate and alienate people of faith and impose atheism on the rest of society. No doubt their efforts have had a significant impact, but it is time for people of faith to stand firm against this intolerance and very anti-historical understanding of who we are as American citizens.
The founders recognized the societal good that comes from acknowledging a benevolent creator greater than ourselves. They recognized rights are inalienable because they come from God. If rights came from man, then man could simply take them away. Failing to acknowledge the source of our human dignity and fundamental rights is then a dangerous threat to our democratic way of life.