FFRF Sues Over “In God We Trust” at Capitol Visitor Center

We already know the top two atheists are suing over the fiasco at the Capitol Visitor Center.

Here’s the case in a nutshell:

Last week, the House and the Senate passed resolutions directing the Architect of the Capitol to engrave “In God We Trust” and the Pledge of Allegiance in prominent places in the Capitol Visitor Center, which is “the entrance for the thousands of tourists who visit the Capitol every day.” The engraving project is expected to cost up to $150,000…

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is now suing over this as well.

The Foundation Complaint said the Congressional appropriations “will give actual and apparent government endorsement and advancement of religion,” while excluding nonreligious Americans.

“‘In God We Trust’ excludes and treats as outsiders the millions of adult Americans, including as many as 15% of all adults, who are not religious, i.e., atheists, agnostics, skeptics and freethinkers, none of whom possesses a belief in a god; the mandated language diminishes nonbelievers by making god-belief synonymous with citizenship.”

The lawsuit seeks a judgment declaring the Congressional directive unconstitutional and an order enjoying [sic... it should be "enjoining"] the defendant from engraving “In God We Trust” and the Pledge of Allegiance in the Capitol Visitor Center.

You can read the full complaint here (PDF).

It is worth noting why “In God We Trust” shouldn’t be engraved at the CVC. FFRF provides plenty of reasons in their lawsuit:

“In God We Trust,” in fact, has not been a United States motto during most of this country’s history; America’s original motto was purely secular, i.e., “E Pluribus Unum” (“from many come one”), which motto was chosen by Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and Benjamin Franklin.

“In God We Trust” was not recognized by Congress until 1956 and the motto did not appear upon paper currency until 1957.

The history of the motto “In God We Trust” evidences no secular purpose; on the contrary, the motto was first adopted during the Cold War as a reaction to the purported “Godlessness” of Communism.

“In God We Trust” has no secular purpose; the phrase was adopted precisely to emphasize and endorse a supposed link between the United States federal government and Christian religious belief.

The effect of “In God We Trust” is primarily and directly to endorse and promote religion, which endorsement would be unmistakably perceived by a reasonable observer familiar with the history and context of the phrase.

“In God We Trust” is intended to and does convey the message that the United States supposedly is a Christian nation.

The United States Constitution, however, is not premised on a religious or Christian foundation; the Constitution was very purposefully and deliberately written without such a basis.

The phrase “In God We Trust” ultimately was adopted as the result of a religious campaign during the McCarthy-era Congress, intended to create a symbolic unity of “God” with the federal government.

“In God We Trust” excludes and treats as outsiders the millions of adult Americans, including as many as 15% of all adults, who are not religious, i.e., atheists, agnostics, skeptics and freethinkers, none of whom possess a belief in a god; the mandated language diminishes nonbelievers by making god-belief synonymous with citizenship.

What happens to the Michael Newdow/Rob Sherman lawsuit? I don’t know.

I also don’t know whether FFRF will win this case. They should, of course, but it doesn’t mean they will. Losing the case may set further precedent that could hurt us in the future when there’s a more pressing issue.

Either way, Bill O’Reilly will probably publicize the lawsuit and FFRF will gain even more members, so there’s an upside either way!

  • http://cycleninja.blogspot.com Paul Lundgren

    Atheists in court are in the place where gays were not-so-many years ago. They were essentially denied their rights as societal equals…well, just because, really. We need to establish precedents and keep making our cases, so that eventually people will get the concept that WE’RE NOT GOING AWAY. And to allow more and more young people to think the arguments through for themselves and to realize that if we ignore the Establishment Clause, the religionauts will continue their relentless march toward theocracy.

    Oh, and to drive Sally Kern to a new level of batshitcrazy.

  • CybrgnX

    The appropriate slogan is…
    ‘In God We Trust all others pay cash’
    which can be shorten to ‘In God We Trust’.
    But for $150K!!!!!
    In these economic times the plucking GOV should be leading the way in fugality!!!
    The visitors center is not worth the money to build much less the idiot sign.
    If they want the stupid carving then they should raise the miney for it seperate from our taxes!!

  • ATL-Apostate

    This seems like a waste of time to me. But, what the hell, I hope they (FFRF) win!

  • James H

    Ceremonial deism will likely carry the day.

  • http://www.banalleakage.com martymankins

    I used to not care either way on this phrase, but given how this phrase has nothing to do with the founding of this country (plus the many other reasons that the FFRF has listed), it should be removed.

    Besides, think of all the christians that will put their older money on eBay instead of Virgin Mary grilled cheese sandwiches.

  • http://webpages.charter.net/jbarnes3028/index.htm John Barnes

    I have long been annoyed by the use of public property for religious propaganda and the promotion of superstitious beliefs. Such incidents may seem small and petty but they ad up to an atmosphere of encouragement in acceptance of the existence of the supernatural that can be hard for young people to shake.


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