Plaintiffs sought to get God off money by Michael Newdow

This was originally a guest post May 19 at and is reprinted with permission. Michael Newdow is a California physician perhaps best-known for his U.S. Supreme Court case to get “under God” out of the Pledge of Allegiance and for his ongoing legal battles to get God off coin and currency.

By Michael Newdow

Many people — monotheistic and atheistic alike — find the inscriptions of “In God We Trust” on U.S. money to be offensive for myriad reasons. In a court of law in a constitutional democracy, however, the only reason that matters is if the practice is unlawful.

And under American law, the practice is clearly unlawful.

It violates the first 10 words of the Bill of Rights (“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion”) and it violates the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). Unfortunately, because constitutional principles can be twisted and perverted, the challenges to this practice under the Establishment Clause have, so far, failed.

Challenges under RFRA, however, are not as susceptible to misapplication. This is because every Supreme Court justice involved in the three RFRA cases heard to date has agreed that, under RFRA, religious activity may not be substantially burdened without a compelling governmental interest and laws narrowly tailored to serve that interest.

There is obviously no compelling government interest in having “In God We Trust” on our money. We did fine for the 75 years before the phrase was ever used at all, and continued to do fine for the subsequent 102 years before such inscriptions were made mandatory on every coin and currency bill. Similarly, the vast majority of nations manage to function without religious verbiage on their money.

Accordingly, for those who feel that being forced by the government to carry a message that violates their religious ideals is substantially burdensome, lawsuits are now being prepared in the seven (of 12) federal circuits that have not yet heard challenges to this governmental practice. Although the arguments demonstrating that the godly inscriptions violate the Establishment Clause will again be raised, the RFRA claim will (for the first time) be the lead argument in each case. Hopefully, in at least one of those circuits, two appellate judges will be willing to acknowledge the statutory violation.

Plaintiffs are now being sought to participate in these cases. The time commitment will be minimal (as you help write the prose relevant to your particular circumstances) and there will be no obligation to provide any financial contribution (although such help will certainly not be refused). We actually are quite far along in finding plaintiffs. What we need mostly are families with minor children since the Supreme Court has indicated that it is more likely to uphold constitutional (and, presumably, statutory) principles when children are involved. Please be advised that the identities of any families with children will be kept “under seal” in order to protect the children from any harms. So if you feel strongly about this issue, I want to hear from you. A few organizational plaintiffs are missing as well.

Join in and help make our nation stronger as it continues on its trajectory toward truly equal respect and protection for people of all races, of all national origins, of all genders, of all sexual orientations and — as stated in the Constitution before any of those other characteristics — of all religious beliefs.

If you wish to participate — especially if you have minor children who you think will look back with pride as adults, knowing their parents gave them the opportunity to personally take part in strengthening our civil rights — please write to [email protected]. We especially are looking for individuals from Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Puerto Rico and Rhode Island.

However, those who reside in Arkansas, Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New Jersey, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia and Wisconsin are also welcome to join in.

Thank you.

Freedom From Religion Foundation