When Was “In God We Trust” Added to Money? – History and Controversy

The Origin of “In God We Trust”

The phrase “In God We Trust” has its roots in the American Civil War. In 1861, a minister named M.R. Watkinson wrote a letter to Secretary of the Treasury Salmon P. Chase, suggesting that “God” should be recognized in U.S. currency. He argued that the country was facing a crisis and that it was important to acknowledge the Almighty in a visible way. Chase agreed and directed the Director of the Mint to begin preparing a design featuring the phrase.

The First Appearance of “In God We Trust” on Currency

The first U.S. coins to bear the phrase “In God We Trust” were the 2-cent piece and were issued in 1864. These coins were issued during the height of the Civil War and were meant to convey a sense of patriotism and religious devotion. It wasn’t until 1957 that “In God We Trust” was adopted as the official motto of the United States.

The Addition of “In God We Trust” to Paper Currency

The use of “In God We Trust” on paper currency was not mandated by law until 1955 when President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed a bill requiring it on all paper currency and coins. The first paper currency to bear the phrase was the one-dollar silver certificate in 1957, followed by other denominations in the years that followed.

The Controversy Surrounding “In God We Trust”

While the phrase “In God We Trust” has become an integral part of American currency and a symbol of the nation’s faith and values, it has also been a source of controversy and debate.

One of the main criticisms of the use of the phrase on currency is that it violates the separation of church and state, which is a key principle of American democracy. Some argue that the inclusion of a reference to God on currency is a form of religious endorsement by the government, which is prohibited by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Others argue that the phrase is not specifically tied to any one religion and is therefore a more general expression of faith and trust in a higher power. However, critics contend that the phrase still carries religious connotations and could be offensive to non-believers or members of other faiths.

Despite these concerns, the use of “In God We Trust” on American currency has remained in place for decades. In fact, efforts to remove the phrase have often been met with opposition, with supporters arguing that it is an important part of the nation’s history and tradition.

The Impact of “In God We Trust” on American Society

The inclusion of “In God We Trust” on American money has had a significant impact on the nation’s culture and identity. For many Americans, the phrase is a powerful symbol of patriotism and faith, representing the values that make the country great. It is seen as a way to connect with the country’s history and to honor the sacrifices of those who have fought to defend American values. The phrase is also seen as a way to express the importance of religious faith in American society, and it is often cited as evidence of the country’s strong Judeo-Christian heritage.


The phrase “In God We Trust” has played an important role in American history and identity. While it has been the subject of controversy, it is widely accepted as a symbol of patriotism and faith. While it may not be embraced by everyone, it remains an enduring part of the nation’s heritage and identity.