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/.
Below, a representative sampling of recent emails from “loving Christians,” usually in response to news coverage of FFRF’s state/church work. Grammmar and spelling are uncorrected. Warning: Some language and suggestions are X-rated.
Jackson Middle School: LEAVE THE SCHOOL ALONE OR YOU CAN JUST PLAIN LEAVE THE COUNTRY!! GOD BLESS AMERICA you are not American. — Laura Chastain, Riviera Beach, Fla.
Jesus: Jesus said to kiss his ass!!! And burn in hell!! — C.R., Hickory, N.C.
Your the reason: Your group is one of the rason United States Of America is in the moral decay that is is!!! You take the foundation that we were founded on out of my Country! Take your leftest lawsuits and go hug your bulshivik president! — “Michigan”
Communists: Yes,you all are a pawn of the Communists and the Socialist Obama administration. — Guy Melton, Okla.
Really?: You people are all a bunch of a$$holes, and are exactly what is wrong with this country. Hope you all end up in hell, like the rest of the heathens. — Mike Dufala, Easley, S.C.
A Disgusting Bunch of Bastards: Maybe the time has come for the country to have Freedom from you “Freedom From Religion” bunch of warped bastards. — David Marcontell, Midlothian, Texas
Happy Solstice: MERRY CHRISTMAS AND GOD BLESS....YOU WORTHLESS MOTHERFUCKERS!!!!!
From Seattle: Merry Christmas pinheads.
Merry CHRISTmas: Your group is useless. — Erik Czarnik
rights: you crackpots make me sick the U S constitution says freedom OF religion not from religion.I find you crackpots very offencive so GORW UP — Rick Marsh, Kan.
worthless: your group is as unAmerican as you can get and bent on the destruction of America. Do you remember One Nation Under God, if you don’t like it GET OUT.
Chambersburg Glee Club: If this is such a bad place THEN GET THE FUCK OUT ASSHOLES and leave high school kids out of it! GET A LIFE AND LEAVE THE REST OF US ALONE!!! TAKE YOUR UNHAPPINESS SOMEWHERE ELSE AND STOP TRYING TO WRECK EVERYTHING THAT IS GOOD AND WHIOLESOME IN THIS GREAT COUNTRY! — Geoff Ackley, Hartland, Wis.
read this: do everyone a favor and just kill yourselves . Would be no great loss to anyone . you are a bunch of self-centered narrow-minded assholes that force your beliefs on everyone else . who gives a fuck what you think — Joe Public, Texas
Who cares: u people have got to be the biggest bunch of fucking losers that I have ever encountered. There are no negative effects of a society that has a moral religious base. Go to a gov’t funded housing project and you will see lazy immoral bums that today’s society thinks it is fair to takeuchi money to support these lazy bums. It would be my guess that you and your kind support an incompetent idiot lik — James Eck
fuck off: you fucking people need to mind your own fucking back yard not any one elces i have photos of you people defacing others property and im sending them to world news — “Shit Head”
Information: You do realize you work for Satan right? You think you are a free thinker, but he has you right where he wants you. Repent, before it’s too late. — Brian Jones
Nativity Scene Athens,Tx: Why don’t you keep your Yankee bullshit outta TEXAS. Nobody here gives a damn about what you think. — Ryan Ragsdale
hell: hope you have fun in hell my granny is the devil and she is gonna make you pay for not minding your own damn business if you don’t like it don’t go around it what the hell if I want to go to the capitol and see the ten commandments you are violating my civil rights because I cant and will sue your ass in court so its a never ending battle hurry up and die so the us native americans can have our land back and our rights. — Steven Flowers
freedom from religion: You now have yourselves to blame for what happened in Connecticut.....you want more freedom from religion, or freedom from God I should say? You are to blame. — David Hess
Stay out of our schools business: YOU AITHEST LIBERALS ARE THE REASON WHY THE SHOOTING AT BOTH SANDY HOOK ELMENTERY AND COLUMBINE HAPPENED AND IF YOU KEEP IT UP WITY WANTING TO TAKE CHRIST OUT OF SCHOOLS AND EVERYTHING ELSE YOU ALL ARE GOING TO BE CONDAMNED TO AN ETERNITY IN HELL WITH THE DIEVL YE GENERATION OF VIPERS! — Colin Stanley
Jackson county ohio: Stay out of jackson county with your anti Christian views. We don’t respect you. And I don’t know one person in this county that has any use for you or your opinions. God bless you and have a nice day. — Carl Detty, Oak Hill, Ohio
Jackson Ohio: Keep your nose out of our schools leave up the picture of Jesus. If we had more pictures of him in schools maybe we would have less shootings in schools. How dare you but in.
Jackson, Ohio: I am going to start off by saying this organization needs to stay out of Southern Ohio, especially schools. So mind your own damn business, which should be at the very least in Wisconsin not all the way down here in Southern Ohio. — Eric Castle, Ohio
Staying out of Ohio: TO WHOM IT CONCERNS, YOU ARE A WISCONSIN BASED, NOT FOR PROFIT(BUT GETTING MY TAX DOLLARS)BUSINESS. IF YOU DO NOT APPROVE OF A PICTURE OF MY SAVIOR, I HAVE AN IDEA,KEEP YOUR ASSES IN WISCONSIN AND DON’T WORRY ABOUT WHAT WE ARE DOING IN OHIO! — Bobby McKenzie, Ohio
Religion: If a picture of Jesus bothers your group so much, then don’t go where it is. I think that is what is wrong with our younger generations today, some idiots, like your group don’t have anything better to do than remove GOD from the classrooms. — Anna Brown, South Shore, Ky.
Hipocrits: Not having a picture of Christ is an illegal endorsement of atheism. I want separation of your church from my state. Such Hypocrits — Spencer Mason, Salt Lake City, Utah
In the spirit of 19th century freethinker Robert Green Ingersoll, who wrote, “Hands that help are better far than lips that pray,” FFRF annually challenges freethinkers to set an example for religionists by ‘doing good on Good Friday.’
The annual challenge was inaugurated in the early 1990s by Pat Cleveland, a founder of the Alabama Freethought Society, FFRF’s longest-running existing chapter.
“It’s not that freethinkers aren’t good every day,” says active volunteer Pat. “But this will be a way to make it a truly good day, if all freethinkers in the country would be visibly helping.”
FFRF overturned a statute making Good Friday a state holiday in Wisconsin. But in all too many regions, there are still government-fostered holidays for Good Friday. FFRF encourages you to take advantage to donate blood, donate a free afternoon to the needy or other worthy causes.
You may want to advertise your “good deeds” on FFRF’s online members-only forum or on our Facebook page.
Ann Elizabeth Zindler, 77, Columbus, Ohio, died of metastatic breast cancer at her home after a heroic battle of more than four years’ duration.
Ann Hunt was born Feb. 25, 1935, in Ann Arbor, Mich. She studied art and biology at Eastern Michigan University. She managed a women’s dormitory at the University of Michigan before moving in 1967 after her marriage in 1964 to New York, where she worked as a glasswright known for her acid-etched stained glass creations.
She served as joint director of the Central Ohio Chapter of American Atheists after moving to Columbus in 1983. Ann became the principal artist and art and layout editor for American Atheist Press. She devoted her life to the advancement of reason and with her husband, Frank, labored to guard the wall of separation between state and church. She was a member of Planned Parenthood and NARAL, Zero Population Growth, the Audubon Society and American Atheists.
Survivors include her husband of 48 years, Frank, an FFRF member; a daughter, Catherine; and three grandchildren; all of Columbus.
FFRF offers its sincerest condolences to the Zindler family.
James Joseph Schiller, Denver, died Dec. 6, 2012. He was born in in 1937 in St. Louis, Mo.
He attended New York University, where he met his wife, Susan. They lived in New York while he attended the New School for Social Research, where he obtained his master’s degree. He earned a post-master’s at Johns Hopkins University.
His first teaching position was in Atlanta. James and Susan lived in Baltimore for 23 years and then in the Denver area for 22 years. Their daughter, Julia, and grandson, Nicolas, live in New Zealand, which was a favorite vacation destination for James and Susan for many years.
James was a member of the Humanists of Colorado and the Freedom From Religion Foundation. “FFRF was very important to James and remains very important to Susan,” notes Tim Bailey, Humanists of Colorado president and FFRF member.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to FFRF, Box 750, Madison, WI 53701.
FFRF’s sincerest condolences go out to the Schiller family.
Michael Christopher Deanhardt, 76, Anderson, S.C., died Dec. 19, 2012, at the Rainey Hospice House.
He was born Oct. 7, 1936 in Anderson to Melvin and Ellen (Wilson) Deanhardt and worked as a self-employed mason.
Deanhardt, a longtime FFRF member and man of good humor, was for years called “the most prayed for man in Anderson” due to his ongoing campaign to get local government boards to stop praying at their meetings. He was also a committed activist on behalf of civil rights, abortion rights, labor rights and separation of state and church.
The Anderson Independent Mail in a profile mentioned “the faded bumper sticker on his pickup read: ‘When the rapture comes, can I have your truck?’ ”
In a 2008 column in that paper, Deanhardt wrote: “We are not willing to cede the moral high ground to the fundamentalists of the religious and political right who are using the language of faith, religion and politics to advance a narrow-minded, mean-spirited agenda, which is built on what we consider to be immoral values of intolerance, exclusion, division, discrimination and repression.”
He is survived by his wife of 55 years, Anita Story Deanhardt, five children, nine grandchildren, five great-grandchildren, two brothers and two sisters.
FFRF offers its sincerest condolences to Michael’s family.
It’s encouraging to see our secular movement growing and gaining strength. We are meeting, networking, organizing, participating and proliferating.
As our numbers increase, so does membership in the growing number of secular organizations. We are receiving national and international media attention, with the important message of reality-based alternatives to lives and minds dimmed and shackled by the influences of religion and its myths and superstitions.
Each day, friends, neighbors and fellow citizens who share our worldview are standing up, speaking out and accepting their role in what may be the most important and consequential social change in the history of humankind. It is the evolution and transition from a world of mythological beliefs and practices toward lives, societies and nations founded upon science, facts and reason.
Many of us seem to lack the perceived freedom, social support or opportunity to make our freethought known to others. Yet, freethinkers today are much like those minority groups which have gone before us to proudly proclaim their identity, become recognized and ultimately accepted as equals in the political process and to claim their rightful place in society.
Nothing is more important to our future success than for nontheists to “come out” to their families and friends, their coworkers and communities. One has to wonder, for each one of us who is openly nontheist, how many of our family members and friends secretly share our rejection of religion and dogma?
On March 29, the day known as Good Friday to Christians, public attention, popular discussion, social practices and media coverage worldwide will focus on thea Christian myth — Jesus dying on the cross, then rising from the dead to save humankind from sin. Most of us don’t get this at all, but what an opportune time for nontheists and secularists to plan, organize and publicize a nationwide, or even worldwide, effort to encourage those of like mind to “come out” en masse.
We can create a back story now to next year’s Good Friday, one which encourages public discussion, facilitates conversations and provides nontheists with the opportunity and moment to openly join us in this most important of social change movements.
Good Friday? No, it will be a Great Friday! We can own this. Great Friday can become our annual, purposeful, secular response and alternative to yet another religious holiday.
We have the message. We have the resources. We have this opportunity.
Gary McIntyre, a Kentucky resident most of his life, was “saved” while growing up Baptist. He started to question religion in college and remembers giving a Speech 101 presentation on “something you feel strongly about.” It was titled “Why I Am Not a Christian” and drew mostly negatives reactions.
He considered himself an agnostic much of his adult life but now says atheist and humanist more accurately describes his worldview. Gary joined FFRF in the mid-1980s after seeing Dan Barker on a television morning show.