Thursday, December 08, 2005

Separation of Church and argument!

Continuing off of the last rant about Separation of Church and State...Today’s Rant will focus on the debate between historical preservation and current standards. With numerous lawsuits arguing the validity of the word “God” in our government, let us look at the history of this addition.

The motto ‘In God We Trust’ was placed on certain United States coins largely because of the increased religious sentiment existing during the Civil War. Secretary of the Treasury Salmon P. Chase received many appeals from devout persons throughout the country, urging that the United States recognize the ‘Deity’ on United States coins. From Treasury Department records, it appears that the first such appeal came in a letter dated November 13, 1861. As a result, Secretary Chase instructed James Pollock, Director of the Mint at Philadelphia, to prepare a motto, in a letter dated November 20, 1861:

Dear Sir: No nation can be strong except in the strength of God, or safe except in His defense. The trust of our people in God should be declared on our national coins.
But the motto disappeared from the five-cent coin in 1883, and did not reappear until production of the Jefferson nickel began in 1938. Since 1938, all United States coins bear the inscription.

It wasn’t until July 11, 1955 when President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed Public Law 140 making it mandatory that all coinage and paper currency display the motto "In God We Trust." The following year, Public Law 851 was enacted and signed, which officially replaced the national motto "E Pluribus Unum" with "In God We Trust’. All of this occurred at the height of cold war tension, when political divisions between the Soviet and western block was simplistically portrayed as a confrontation between Judeo-Christian civilization and the "godless" menace of communism. On June 14, 1954, Congress unanimously ordered the inclusion of the words "Under God" into the nation's Pledge of Allegiance. By this time, other laws mandating public religiosity had also been enacted, including a statute for all federal justices and judges to swear an oath concluding with "So help me God." All paper currency issued after October 1, 1957 included the ‘In God We Trust’ motto. ( So “God” was not always on US Currency and NOT the national motto!

Even if you agree that America was founded on Christian beliefs, that doesn’t mean our laws and ideals should still follow those beliefs but rather change and progress into a more universal standard to encompass the current diversity, should items like money, and government buildings with religious statements on them change? Shockingly enough, I say no. The idea is not to take down what is already part of history (even if that history does not tread as far back as we thought), but to build up new history around us…a history that reflects 2005. Unfortunately, my ‘2005 Utopia’ is not my ideal society. With ‘our’ President recently saying, “You are either with us or against us,”(commenting on the war in Iraq) being a prime example of the limited and one-track mindset our nation still follows. I choose rather to embrace those lovely shades of gray where diversity lies.

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