Freethought Today · October 2013

Published by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc.

‘In God We Trust’ case appealed

The Religious Right, which never gives up in its quest to unite church and state, has met its equal in tenacity with state/church watchdog Michael Newdow.

A federal judge slapped down his and FFRF’s latest challenge of “In God We Trust” on U.S. currency in September. Mike will be appealing on behalf of FFRF, his mother, Roslyn Newdow, a numismatist (coin collector) and 17 other plaintiffs, including a teacher, parents and their minor children.

“In God We Trust” was a Johnny-come-lately motto first adopted in 1956 (and required by Congress to appear on all currency in 1955 — showing up on paper currency in 1957). FFRF brought a case in Colorado court, ably argued by attorney Robert R. Tiernan, which was thrown out in the 1990s.

The current suit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York on Feb. 1. The complaint alleged that the religious verbiage is proselytizing, discriminatory and an establishment of monotheism in violation of the Establishment Clause.

Newdow quoted representatives who voted for the addition as seeking to use the money to proselytize around the world. Rep. Herman Eberharter of Pennsylvania said “[T]he American dollar travels all over the world, into every country of the world, and frequently gets behind the Iron Curtain, and if it carries this message in that way I think it would be very good. I think that is one of the most compelling reasons why we should put it on our currency.”

Newdow noted that “In God We Trust” necessarily excludes atheists and others who don’t believe in one god or a god. The plaintiffs are “forced to proselytize, by an Act of Congress, for a deity they don’t believe in whenever they handle money.” 

The 19-page ruling by U.S. District Judge Harold Baer Jr. said that the placement of the phrase doesn’t constitute a “substantial burden” on atheists.

“We feel sure if it read ‘In Allah We Trust,’ the judge might have found this a tad irksome for Christian believers,” noted FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor.

“We’re grateful for the indefatigable, pro bono work of Mike Newdow to restore secularism to our government mottoes and the pledge,” added Co-President Dan Barker.

See you in the appeals court!

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