Monday, January 21, 2008

Indiana License Plate: "In God We Trust"

As I traveled through Indiana last week on my way to the Symposia I was surprised to see several cars sporting a new specialty license plate with the words "In God We Trust." It was not a surprise when I learned that the ALCU was behind a lawsuit saying the plates are unconstitutional. Apparently it's an apparent disparity in fees that got the original plaintiff so upset. Specialty plates that support sports teams or other private organization have to pay additional fees. A news article from Fox News last April gives additional details of the lawsuit.

"In God We Trust," though, is clearly a national motto. It's even on our money. Admittedly there is some debate as to what generic civic deity it refers to, but the point is still there: This country was originally founded by people of faith, not agnostics or atheists. You can't get around it, no matter how many times you chant: "Separation of church and state." Still the debate rages on.

One writer, an avowed agnostic, shares these strong words of protest:

"If this new plate were a true specialty plate, available for an additional fee paid only by those who share its sentiments, I would give this subject only a passing thought of gladness that the freedoms of expression and religion were alive and well in my state.

However, that this plate is offered at no additional fee places it into a category of state sponsorship with an assumption that the sentiments are representative of every Hoosier who has a thought on the subject. It is this assumption that I, as many, find offensive, narrow-minded and arrogant in the extreme — the egotistical blindness and inconsideration of which goes against everything for which I believe America stands and for which Indiana should stand.

Stare … blink … stare … A state-sponsored plate that says “we”?

Are we to suppose the “we” in “In God ‘We’ Trust” means everyone in Indiana? Our seemingly Evangelical state leadership appears to be supporting this idea that “we” means every one of us. Or perhaps they only mean that the opinions of anyone who is not part of their “we” are simply irrelevant. I think “we” means “we” are ALL paying for the cost of a plate whose sentiments only apply to some. ...

While, admittedly, Indiana is a state perhaps far more homogeneous than our coastal counterparts, Hoosiers represent nearly every belief system throughout the world, including atheist and agnostic theologies. I should think to any reasonable person logic would then dictate that ALL Hoosiers, that is the collective “we,” DO NOT ALL “Trust In God.”

It is, of course, our right to have this wonderful variety of opinions on the subject. However, also, as a matter of course, one point of view on this subject should never be given preference over another on a state-sponsored banner designed to represent us all...." (State-sponsored Christian Doctrine? by J. Kirby Thompson at:

Well, sorry Mr. Thompson, the motto is a bigger issue than your views or your state. Take it up with the country that adopted it. Perhaps we can get a national consensus to adopt another motto: In Me I Trust. It would, no doubt, better reflect the narcissistic character of our current society....

P.S. In doing a very simple search I also discovered that Indiana is not alone
with this motto-bearing plate. Note these from other states:


Anonymous said...

My favourite little fact in reference to this the 1797 American treaty with (Muslim) Tripoli, declaring that "the government of the United States is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion."

The treaty was written under Washington's presidency, and approved by the Senate under John Adams. The phrase occasioned no comment at the time.

The Founders of our nation were for the most part deists, not christians. That probably explains why the word "god" or "christian" or any version thereof fails to appear in our constitution.

And as far as a "National Motto" of "In God We Trust" it was first placed on currency in 1865, and became the national motto in 1956. Quite a while after the founding of our great nation.

Brett said...

I like the Indiana license plate and in fact my sister has one, but some of the ones proposed in other states concern me ( It's not the message that gets me but that I feel it identifies too much with the religious right, and not all Christians let alone all people who believe in God.

Anonymous said...

This country was originally founded by people of faith

'Christianity is the most perverted system that ever shone on man' -Thomas Jefferson

'Lighthouses are more useful than churches' -Benjamin Franklin

'This would be the best of all possible worlds, if there were no religion in it' -John Adams

Anonymous said...

can I have a plate

In Buddha I trust