Attorney General Ken Paxton weighed in on the matter on Nov. 4 with a letter to two Republican state senators who asked if police departments were inviting legal trouble by including the phrase on patrol cars. Pointing to precedent in a series of court cases, Paxton noted challenges to “In God We Trust” on money, police vehicles and goverment property haven’t been successful.
“Displaying ‘In God We Trust’ on police vehicles is a passive use of a motto steeped in our nation’s history that does not coerce Citizen approval or participation,” Paxton wrote to the state senators. “A law enforcement department’s decision to display the national motto on its vehicles is consistent with that history. Thus, a court is likely to conclude that a law enforcement department’s display of ‘In God We Trust’ on its patrol vehicles is permissible under the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution.”
Slapping the phrase on police vehicles has become a contentious issue in recent months, with more than 60 police departments — most of them in the south and midwest — approving decals or stickers on patrol cars, according to the National Constitution Center, a Philadelphia-based non-profit dedicated to civic education.
In each case, the Freedom From Religion Foundation has challenged the use of the phrase on government-owned vehicles. The Wisconsin-based group advocates for separation of church and state in all matters, and has said the phrase amounts to “phony pandering” to the nation’s religious demographic, especially in socially conservative states. “In God We Trust” became the national motto in 1956 when President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed it into law, a move that also made the phrase mandatory on American currency. (Read more from “Texas AG: ‘In God We Trust’ Decals on Cop Cars Constitutional” HERE)