The Freedom From Religion Foundation, along with 19 other plaintiffs, is suing the U.S. Treasury for stamping "In God We Trust" on currency. Honorary FFRF board member Mike Newdow is acting as legal counsel in the suit, which was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York on Feb. 1.
The complaint alleges that the religious verbiage is proselytizing, discriminatory and a per se establishment of monotheism in violation of the Establishment Clause.
The complaint, a tour de force of historical research, unequivocally shows that there was a purely religious purpose and intent behind putting God on our coinage. Newdow quotes representatives who voted for the addition as seeking to use the money to proselytize around the world. Rep. Herman P. Eberharter (PA) 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. ... the principles laid down by God and the teachings of our way of life should be kept alive in the hearts and minds of our friends enslaved behind the Iron Curtain."
Plaintiffs are forced to proselytize — by an Act of Congress — for a deity they don't believe in whenever they handle money.
"Our government is prohibited from endorsing one religion over another but also prohibited from endorsing religion over nonreligion. The placement of a monotheistic ideal on our nation's currency violates this stricture and is therefore unconstitutional," said FFRF Co-President Dan Barker.
The plaintiffs also point out that "In God We Trust" is discriminatory. The motto necessarily excludes atheists and others who don't believe in one god or a god. Because it appears on national currency and states "in God we trust," the phrase necessarily makes full citizenship contingent on the belief provided. In the words of Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, this sends the "message to members of the audience who are nonadherents 'that they are outsiders, not full members of the political community and an accompanying message to adherents that they are insiders, favored members of the political community.'" Santa Fe, 530 U.S. v. Doe, 530 U.S. 290, 309-10 (quoting Lynch v. Donnelly, 465 U.S. 668)(O'Connor, J., concurring).
As the complaint points out, a "provision discriminating in a similar manner against Jews, Catholics, women, blacks, Latinos, Asians, or any other minority group would... [n]ever be tolerated."
Staff Attorney Andrew Seidel, carrying on a long FFRF tradition of protesting the use of the bible and an oath to God at presidential swearings-in, sent an appeal to President Barack Obama immediately after he was reelected, asking him to “go by the book” (the Constitution, not the bible).
FFRF has asked every president since its founding, starting with Jimmy Carter, to eschew the bible and “So help you God” at presidential inaugurations. The U.S. Constitution, in Article II, Section 1, Clause 8, specifies:
“Before he enters on the execution of his office he shall take the following oath or affirmation: ‘I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the office of president of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States.’ ”
Missing from those instructions is any reference to the bible or God. In response to Andrew’s letter, Fox TV invited him to debate archconservative pundit Bill O’Reilly. Andrew clearly won, but you be the judge by viewing it at bit.ly/VkzMcl.
Andrew said (amid numerous interruptions by the host) in response to O’Reilly’s claim that the “overwhelming majority” of Americans want the bible in the inauguration: “That’s actually not accurate. The Freedom From Religion Foundation’s membership has exploded over the past five years. We have 19,000 members now; 19% of this country now consider themselves nonreligious; 35% of this country under the age of 30 consider themselves nonreligious. The demographics are shifting.”
He also pointed out that the will of the majority is irrelevant and the bible is barbaric: “The Bill of Rights exists to protect the minority from the tyranny of the majority. We are a nation of laws and neither our laws nor our morality are founded upon the bible. Religion gets its morality from us, not the other way around. . . . The bible exhibits a Bronze Age morality that treats women as chattel, human beings as property and punishes innocent children for the crimes of their parents to the third and fourth generations, and that’s just the first set of Ten Commandments!”
The subject of Martin Luther King Jr. came up briefly, since Obama swore on one of his bibles, giving Andrew an opening to quote from King’s famous letter from the Birmingham jail criticizing the “pious irrelevancies and sanctimonious trivialities” of many white churches.
Read Andrew’s letter (Nov. 9, 2012) and FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor’s statement about the Inaugural (Jan. 20, 2013) at ffrf.org/news-releases/.