How to Deal with “In God We Trust” On the Money May 10, 2008

How to Deal with “In God We Trust” On the Money

What is the right way to handle a piece of paper money that says “In God We Trust” on it?

Option 1) Ignore the phrase.

Option 2) Put a stamp on it that reads “”Keep Church and State Separate.”


Option 3) Cross out the offending phrase with a black marker.

Option 4) Replace the word God with “Science.”


Option 5) [Fill in the blank.]

(Thanks to Brockli for the image!)

[tags]atheist, atheism[/tags]

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  • Darryl

    Ignore it and support church-state separationism. To do the other things you listed is illegal, and since we atheists have to set a good example for everyone else, they are not options.

  • James

    Option 5
    Change in God we Trust to, In God we Thrust.
    Innuendo (In your end-o) is always a good way to go.

  • Amy

    Option 5) Move to the UK where we have Darwin on our £10 note!

  • Distract people by being artistic, like these guys:

    George Washington + hand with a copy of the book of your choice = fun

  • Mike

    I’ve been crossing out the “GOD” and filling in “REASON” for years; during which I’ve probably “Constitutionalized” tens of thousands of dollars worth of currency.

    Sometimes, I draw an “insertion arrow” that proofreaders use and indicate that “GOD” should add an extra “O”; so it reads in “IN GOoD WE TRUST.”

    And, no, this is absolutely NOT ILLEGAL.

    I’ve looked into this: It would be illegal to deface the money if you intended to deface the currency in order render it no longer usable as legal tender in circulation.

    Crossing out “GOD” and putting in “SCIENCE” or “REASON” or “EAT AT JOE’S” or anything else is as legal as putting a mustache on the face of the president with a pen.

    There are many, many more examples of defaced money at, or, even the “Defaced Presidents” photo pool on

    For years I have encouraged all who support Church-State separation to do this, and will continue to do so.

  • Forgo paper money and use a debit card. Currency (especially paper currency) is a waste of natural resources and tax dollars.

  • Mike

    If it offendeth thine eye, send it to me. I can handle it.

  • I would much rather trust in humanity than science, per se.

  • Option 5) Contribute to Michael Newdows case to remove it….

    Darryl , AFAIK…crossing out/stamping the phrase is not illegal, as long as it doesn’t change to face value of the money.

  • Maria

    Ignore it and support church-state separationism. To do the other things you listed is illegal, and since we atheists have to set a good example for everyone else, they are not options.


  • Miko

    As a scientist (well, a mathematician, but close enough in this case), I find option 4 a bit creepy. Personally, as a government employee I’ve taken an oath to uphold the Constitution and so am legally required to practice option 3. The part of me with an obscure sense of humor wants to replace it with “TANSTAAFL,” but so far I’ve always resisted the urge.

    Darryl , AFAIK…crossing out/stamping the phrase is not illegal, as long as it doesn’t change to face value of the money.

    Defacing currency is illegal from what I’ve heard. However, the law against it would be unconstitutional anyway, so if you’re looking to get the issue resolved, getting arrested/fined/whatever-the-penalty-is for this would be a good tactic.

  • Marc


    I’ve looked into this: Defacing money is only illegal if you intend to render the currency unusable as legal tender.

    I’ve been “Constitutionalizing” money for decades by adding an “O” to “GOD”, or crossing “GOD” out and putting “REASON” or “SCIENCE” in its place on likely tens of thousands of dollars by now.

    People are not locked up for putting mustaches on presidents or writing “WHERESGEORGE.COM” or “EAT AT JOES” on it.

    See more at or the Flickr groups “Defaced Presidents” and “Money Art

  • There is some good info about the legality of “defacing” bills at

    My suggestion is to use a hole punch on the word “God”. If the item is question is effectively invisible, then why not the reference to it?

  • fpoba

    you trust science?

    the folk that gave us the food pyramid? the folk that keep finding new stuff like water that can give us cancer?

  • Cross off the whole phrase and replace it with E Pluribus Unum. This was the de facto prior National Motto and was a unifying one. It also shifts the emphasis of the complaint from the word ‘God’ to the meaning of the phrase as a whole. In plain language, the motto is ‘We Trust in God.’

  • Paul

    This is a trivial issue.

    People should focus their energies on more meaningful issues.

  • JimboB

    Another option is to radically re-define what ‘god’ actually refers to. It certainly doesn’t seem to appeal to the god of Abraham any more than any other god. It’s compatible with Deism and/or Pantheism. And Pantheism basically equates god to reality, so IGWT doesn’t really offend me in that sense.

    Then again, I just used some seemingly apologetic nonsense to justify my lack of offense. That, in turn, offends me. Excuse me while I go vomit.

  • Sudo

    Spend it.

    Anything else just seems childish. If you want the words on the currency changed, do it legally. Marking it out is also just going to piss off people who might have otherwise been somewhat sympathetic (not that that really matters to fundamentalist atheists.)

    If you have the urge to deface currency, do it with instead.

  • Damn you people.

    Atheists are not good at getting worked into an emotional pitch about things like this. I wanted to hear great and fun suggestions for defacing money and causing a ruckus!

  • Claire

    I have been known, more out of boredom than any crusading spirit, to replace the ‘god’ part of the phrase with whatever suited my fancy at the time. Sometimes a classical god or goddess such as Athena, or a Norse one (Loki is appropriate), but often just something at random, such as ‘paranoia’ or ‘Larry’ or ‘rum’ or ‘ceiling cat’ or ‘the state’ or ‘gravity’ or ‘general cussedness’. It livens up the money no end.

  • This is a trivial issue.

    No, it isn’t. At least its status as the National Motto is very much non-trivial. Identifying ‘we’ as those who trust in God and those who do not trust in God as ‘them’ is very harmful. Since it is the National Motto, states can (and have) passed laws requiring posters of the National Motto be put up in public school classrooms and the like. See the American Family Association’s IGWT page:

    If a public school puts up a poster of “In God We Trust” over a background of an American flag in my kids’ classroom, it’s coming down. I would expect non-whites (and many whites) to have a similar reaction to “We are White” posters.

    Divisive identifications of ‘us’ and ‘them’ are NOT trivial.

  • Kyle

    It IS illegal to write on your money. The Feds and the RIAA will come after you. Unless you follow the following procedure:

    If you write on U.S. currency, or come into possession of currency that has writing on it, deposit double the value of it into my PayPal account immediately. I will look into the situation and get back to you. Eventually. Until then, know you’re doing the right thing.


  • Ben… I completely agree that the phrase is not trivial. People have used it to justify all kinds of hatred toward non-Christians. I wrote about the us verses them issue a while back, and I still think that should be cause for concern. That’s why I suggested supporting the one effort out there that might do something about it.

  • Richard Wade

    This money is bad. It is bad that it is not constitutional. It’s said to be the root of all evil. It’s also dirty. You don’t know where it’s been. You should get rid of the money, but you have to be careful how. I’ts illegal to destroy it. The best way is to send it to me. Send the bad, bad money to Richard Wade. Then you will be safe.

  • Richard Wade

    Dammit. Kyle got in there ahead of me.

  • Xeonicus

    Like another poster mentioned, just use a debit card. Paper money is so crude and primitive and you can do pretty much everything via electronic transactions nowadays.

  • Colin M

    How about crossing out “god” and making it more specific by writing the names of random gods there?

    In Thor we trust – In Mammon we trust – In Discordia we trust – In Uranus we trust – In Allah we trust … etc.

  • Every so often I cross out “God” and replace it with “Dog”. Dogs are more trustworthy than imaginary entities.

  • I think Colin’s idea is good. If you write “science” or “reason” I bet it would cause a negative reaction in your average Christian American. Even those “on the fence” might get annoyed at “godless liberals” defacing their money. How would that help the church-state separation cause? But if you put “Allah” it could raise someone’s consciousness a bit on how weird it is to put gods on the money.

    Or if you’re an X-files fan, cross out the whole thing and put “Trust No One”.

  • SarahH

    I agree that it’s unconstitutional (the phrase), but I don’t think it should be high on atheists’ priorities lists. It’s one of the examples theists like to accuse us of getting ‘militant’ about – that and the pledge of allegiance, national anthem, etc. Eventually all that stuff needs fixing, but I think the root of the problem needs to be corrected before people will accept the fix.

  • Ron in Houston

    Well, it MAY not be illegal – but consider this:

    18 USC 333

    Whoever mutilates, cuts, defaces, disfigures, or perforates, or unites or cements together, or does any other thing to any bank bill, draft, note, or other evidence of debt issued by any national banking association, or Federal Reserve bank, or the Federal Reserve System, with intent to render such bank bill, draft, note, or other evidence of debt unfit to be reissued, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than six months, or both.

    Also consider this:

    SECRET SERVICE THREATENS COUPLE FOR STAMPING ONE DOLLAR BILLS 09/11/95 WOODSTOCK, New York — A couple who habitually brand their one dollar bills with a marijuana leaf and the quote: “I grew hemp,” were recently contacted by Woodstock police acting on behalf of the Secret Service. Joy Beckerman and James Horn, owners of the Heaven On Earth Hemp Store, report that the police came to them with Xerox copies of stamped dollar bills and a written warning from the secret service specifying that the practice of defacing United States currency was a federal crime. Although Horn admits that the local officers were laid back about the whole issue, he claims that the notice stated that the U.S. Attorney General would be contacted and charges would be pressed if the couple didn’t immediately stop the stamping.

    My suggestion – just ignore it.

  • Brendon

    Yeah, this whole ‘get God off our money’ crusade is a pointless waste of time, stereotypical whining of people with nothing better to do…

  • K

    I think it’s a good start to being vocal and making Atheism mainstream. How many kids in podunk Idaho don’t even realize they have an option? Or it might make someone think for 2 seconds. If one of us got that dollar we might have a moment of solidarity.
    It would have meaning to me and I suspect it would have meaning to others so all ya’ll whining about it being a, “pointless waste of time,” need to go back in the closet. If you can’t be part of the solution at least get out of the way for those of us who want to do our part.

  • Kori

    Hey, not all of us are able to using a debit card… *teenager/dependent*.

  • Alejandro

    In God We Trust = Gott mit uns, at least in spirit.

  • TXatheist

    I wonder if crossing out god and inserting allah above it would get “their” attention in how annoying it is?

  • AnonyMouse

    I would think that the problem was the “marijuana pride” being displayed on the bills…

    I wonder how the Secret Service would react to “In Corey Feldman We Trust”?

  • stamperbee

    Please read the constitution, amendments, and the writings of our founders. They never intended to keep God out of government, but government out of the church. The words are not in the constitution and have been an attempt to fundamentally change the greatness of the US. Without God we are not the nation that our founders formed. The church has never harmed a government. The major, not only, but major reason that our founders left Europe was because the government chose what religion was acceptable. Our founders worked to avoid the possibility of that happening here … not to take God out of our public life. Freedom of the individual to worship as they please was the goal. Wish there intent would be followed not what others later have tried to imply and put into law.

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