Letter to Bullhead City, AZ Mayor & City Council from the Kingman Freethinkers

The Honorable Tom Brady, Mayor Bullhead City, and Council Members,

Secular people, including atheists, agnostics, deists, humanists, skeptics, freethinkers, and other nonreligious people, are everywhere. They are your friends, neighbors, coworkers, and loved ones. But they often cannot be open about who they are.

Recently a member of Kingman Freethinkers and a resident of Bullhead City brought to our attention that the City Council voted to post “In God We Trust” in chamber, he went on to ask “Is there any action that can be taken on this?”

We ask the Honorable Tom Brady, Vice Mayor and City Council members not to display the motto, and, if displayed, to remove it.

Study after study demonstrates growth in the secular segment of society. We are now the second largest “religious” group in North America and most of Europe. In the United States, we make up somewhere between 23% and 28% of American adults. We concede that in Bullhead City that percentage may be lower, but make no mistake, we are here and a significant portion of the population.

Lawmakers can no longer ignore this community. Recent studies show that 94.7% of the religiously unaffiliated are registered to vote and 86.5% always or nearly always vote. This rate is significantly higher than the general population.

We are all American, but some of us are not part of the “We” in “In God We Trust.” Millions of good, moral, patriotic citizens do not believe in a god. We pay taxes, vote, sit on juries, and serve in the military, but every time we look at a dollar bill we are told that Congress considers us outsiders. To be accurate, the motto should say, “In God Some Of Us Trust,” and wouldn’t that be silly? This is just one of the reasons why it is divisive. Most people would consider “In Jesus We Trust” to be exclusionary and inappropriate. Why is it okay to exclude atheists and agnostics or any other group that does not accept the concept of “God”?

What happened to “E Pluribus Unum”?

In 1956 Congress adopted the phrase as our national motto, replacing the historic and more accurate “E Pluribus Unum” (“From Many, One”) chosen by Jefferson, Franklin, and Adams. In 1957 Congress put “IN GOD WE TRUST” on all currency. Before then, it had appeared only sporadically, since the Civil War, on some coins.

The 1950s was a time of intense Cold War hysteria. “Under God” was inserted into the Pledge of Allegiance in 1954. During the McCarthy era, no congressperson wanted to be seen voting against “God.” When Rep. Bennett introduced the bill to put “In God We Trust” on our money, he gave the threat of “materialistic communism” as a justification.

“In God We Trust” on money is a Cold War anachronism. If there ever were any truly “unAmerican” activities, then defacing our secular currency with religious graffiti was one of them.

The American way is to ensure liberty, to let people decide for themselves what to believe. The Supreme Court has ruled that the government is restricted to secular actions alone, that it must neither advance nor hinder religion. “In God We Trust” is a religious phrase. It does not belong on the legal tender of our secular nation, or on the walls of our institutions.

Let’s reclaim our traditional, inclusive, American motto: “E Pluribus Unum”.

In God We Trust is not our founding motto and cannot even be found in the Bible but can be found in the Quran.

The literal phrase “In God We Trust” does not appear in any Christian Bible or Jewish Tanakh.  The phrase is literally found in two places of the Quran, in Surah 10 Yunus 10:85, as well as Surah 7, Al-A’raf 7:89.  It first appeared in the U.S. in 1864 on a two-cent piece but not on paper money until 1957.  It was first suggested by a pastor in Pennsylvania in 1861 to make it clear that God was on the side of the Union in the Civil War.  In 1863, it began to be put on coins, but legislation was necessary and that was passed in 1864.

Objections to its use have been ongoing.  The first case was brought in 1967, then again in 1978, and the latest in 2018.  One court said the “primary purpose of the slogan was secular.” Another said it is patriotic or ceremonial and has lost all religious content. One court said the motto had no theological or ritualistic impact – so god has no theology? It is amazing that religious people do not object to the courts calling their god secular – a stance that trivializes their entire belief system.

President Theodore Roosevelt objected to the irreverence caused by putting it on coins:

“… My own feeling in the matter is due to my very firm conviction that to put such a motto on coins, or to use it in any kindred manner, not only does no good, but does positive harm, and is in effect irreverence, which comes dangerously close to sacrilege. … Any use which tends to cheapen it, and, above all, any use which tends to secure its being treated in a spirit of levity, is from every standpoint profoundly to be regretted. … it seems to me eminently unwise to cheapen such a motto by use on coins … In all my life I have never heard any human being speak reverently of this motto on the coins or show any signs of its having appealed to any high emotion in him, but I have literally, hundreds of times, heard it used as an occasion of and incitement to … sneering … Every one must remember the innumerable cartoons and articles based on phrases like ‘In God we trust for the 8 cents,’ … Surely, I am well within bounds when I say that a use of the phrase which invites constant levity of this type is most undesirable. …” – Theodore Roosevelt, November 1907

The unifying theme chosen by the founders has been discarded in favor of a phrase that creates levity and irreverence toward religion. Nevertheless, it has been ruled by the courts to be secular and of no theological importance.  Ironically, it seems that those yelling the loudest for religion in the public square are doing the most to diminish that very concept.

While some politicians and advocates claim that these laws are intended to showcase the national motto or inspire patriotism, it is clear that their true purpose is to peddle religiosity to a captive audience. The motto “In God We Trust” is inaccurate, exclusionary, and unnecessarily entangles church and state. It is an unvarnished attack on American secularism and civil liberties — those things we cherish greatly about our democracy and which we tirelessly defend.

Politicians work for ALL of their constituents, not just those who share their faith. The controversy that surrounds the taxpayer funded public display of theistic messages and prayer and the petty theatrics it seems to attract testify to the fact that Arizona can do better. We could all get along a lot better if we cut out the theistic theatrics and got down to the business of governance instead.

We ask the Honorable Tom Brady, Vice Mayor and City Council members not to display the motto, and, if displayed, to remove it.

Kingman Freethinkers are a secular social group serving Mohave County.


Mark Nisski

Kingman Freethinkers are an Affiliate of American Atheists and Secular Coalition for Arizona. We are also closely aligned with American Humanist Association and Freedom From Religion Foundation.