‘In God We Trust’ challenged

For a second time, FFRF member Michael Newdow is trying to get “In God We Trust” off our U.S. currency.

Newdow, an attorney and physician, filed his latest complaint in Akron, Ohio, on Jan. 4. In 2013, he, along with FFRF, sued the U.S. Treasury over the printing of “In God We Trust” on currency. That lawsuit was dismissed by New York Judge Harold Baer, who ruled the argument was unfounded.

This time, Newdow is planning to base his suit on the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) rather than on the First Amendment protection from the governmental establishment of religion, as he did in the prior lawsuit. The RFRA is what Hobby Lobby used in its successful arguments to get out of covering contraception for its employees.
But will Newdow’s case stand up in court?

“I think the case is incredibly powerful from every aspect,” Newdow wrote in an email response to FFRF. “All we need is two Court of Appeals judges willing to uphold the Constitution. Under the Establishment Clause, we cannot lose.

“Unfortunately, federal appellate judges are often willing to ignore the Constitution and come up with cockamamie excuses to avoid actually following the Establishment Clause and doing what the Constitution requires,” he continued. “And, of course, they have a lot of Supreme Court precedent behind them. So this time, we are pushing the RFRA angle. That’s a statute, not a constitutional command, and, to date, every Supreme case heard on that statute has come out in favor of the complainant(s).”

Newdow is joined by 41 plaintiffs, including 10 members of FFRF (Nancy Dollard, Marni Huebner-Tiborsky, Holly Huber, Mitch Kahle, Bernie Klein, Tracey Martin, Michael Martinez, Sarah Maxwell, Dennis Rosenblum, Sam Salerno).

“There is obviously no compelling government interest in having ‘In God We Trust’ on our money,” Newdow wrote last year on The Friendly Atheist blog. “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.”

Newdow, in 2004, also sued to have “under God” removed from the Pledge of Allegiance. That case made it to the Supreme Court, although it ruled that he did not have standing to sue, so the court never tackled the topic itself.

Newdow’s current lawsuit, which is 112 pages in length, makes the claim that the presence of the motto on coins and dollars offers an unfair advantage to Christians, thus minimizing atheists.

“Imagine if Christians had to carry on their body something they disagree with religiously, like ‘Jesus is a lie’ — how long do you think that would stand?” Newdow recently told ThinkProgress. “But atheists are so denigrated in this society that people accept this without a second thought.”

Freedom From Religion Foundation