Nonbelievers seek to take God off currency

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."

The Freedom From Religion Foundation, based in Madison, Wis., a 501(c)(3) nonprofit educational charity, is the nation's largest association of freethinkers (atheists, agnostics), and has been working since 1978 to keep religion and government separate.

FFRF is a non-profit, educational organization. All dues and donations are deductible for income-tax purposes.

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