Trying to Get God Off the Money… in Brazil

Since 1986, Brazilian paper money has included the phrase “Deus Seja Louvado” (roughly “God be praised”):

Now, Jefferson Aparecido Dias is trying to get the phrase off the currency:

“The fact that most Brazilians are Christian does not justify the “violation of the fundamental rights of those that follow different religions or do not believe in God,” Dias said in the motion he filed with the court.

The Assembly of God Church, one of the largest evangelical denominations in Brazil, opposed the motion.

“God must be praised all the times and everywhere,” said church official Tilza Feliciano.

That last thought is just frightening… it makes you wonder if godly phrases also appear on credit cards and toilet paper.

Dias does a nice job of making his point, though. Check out how he explains the problem with the phrase in the actual lawsuit (PDF):

To make his case that the phrase was inappropriate, he asked the court to consider the reaction of Christians if the nation’s currency included calls to worship figures revered by Muslims, Buddhists, observers of Candomblé or Hindus — or a statement endorsing atheism. “Let’s imagine if the real note had any of these phrases on it: ‘Praise Allah,’ ‘Praise Buddha,’ ‘Hail Oxossi,’ ‘Hail Lord Ganesh’ or ‘God does not exist,’ ” he said.

No doubt there would be an uproar if any of those things happened. But when it’s referring to the Christian deity, everyone acts like it’s perfectly normal… and it turns out the religious leaders in Britain make the same arguments to keep godly phrases on the money that we hear in the U.S.

[Cardinal Odilo Scherer] also said in a statement: “The phrase should make no difference to those who do not believe in God. But it is meaningful for all those who do believe in God…”

It does matter to us, of course. Brazil, like the U.S., is a secular nation. Promotion of one religion over another or religion over non-religion isn’t an issue the government should be taking sides on. Dias is just taking a stand for the law instead of letting religious groups get off the hook with their abuse of privilege.

Best of luck to Dias in what is surely an uphill battle.

If only there was a way to chip in to help Dias cover his legal costs. For all we know, this battle could cost him a brazilian dollars. (You’re welcome.)

(Thanks to Keith for the link!)

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • Edwards Luzardo

    LOL “brazilian dollars”, brilliant! We don’t have that kind of problems with our money here in Venezuela, no mention of any god, just independence heroes, and national fauna  :)

  • Ewan

    “religious leaders in Britain”

    Um – Brazil, surely? Though if anyone does want to see what English bank notes look like, the Bank Of England has a nice page of them here: where you can admire our £10, which has Darwin on the back in all his late period beardy glory.

  • Daosorios
  • M J Shepherd

    I would love to wipe with toilet paper that read “God be praised”. Such blasphemy.

  • Kirby_G

    I think we need to petition to have “Kirby is the coolest guy ever.” put on all of our money.

    It would make no difference to those who don’t think so, but it is very meaningful to me.

  • Baal

    I’d like to have a little ceremonial secularism,  let’s get ‘God does not exist’ added to the currency. 

  • Foster

    Señor Dias might have a better argument if he were debating under American law, but he has no legs to stand on under Brazilian law.

    The preamble to the Brazilian Constitution reads, “We the representatives of the Brazilian people…promulgate, under the protection of God, this Constitution of the Federative Republic of Brazil.”

    You might want to start by taking God out of the Constitution before you start whining about the money.

  • Hanna ØH

    There’s no mention of any god on Norwegian money, even though we are technically a Christian nation.

  • Pedro Lemos

     Yes, but the STF (Brazilian´s Supreme Court) already judged that the preamble of the Constitution has no juridic value, only politic value. It can´t be seen or used in court as a constitucional norm.  See:

    About the “Deus seja louvado” phrase, knowing my country as I do, I find it hard to believe that this phrase is gonna leave our currency anytime soon, unfortunately…

    BTW, Hemant, Brazil´s currency is not Brazilian Dollars, it´s called Brazilian Real. ;)

  • Marco Conti

    I second the printing of “In God We Trust” or the equivalent in Portuguese on toilet paper. 

  • nakedanthropologist

    “God must be praised all the times and everywhere,” said church official Tilza Feliciano. – Even when I was a believer, I never got this sentiment.  It seemed to be such a cheap and underhanded tactic.  If god(s) is supposed to be sacred and worthy of praise, then why is it so important to devalue that sentiment by putting it everywhere?  Shouldn’t one who does believe be able to do that anyway, without having to rely on seeing it where ever?  As Hermant noted, most believers would be offended if we put it on toilet paper. 

     Good for Dias – I hope he wins, and without the usual death threats and violence that usually comes into play when these issues are raised within a court of law.

  • Robert

    Senhor Dias (not Spanish Señor) or Seu for short/colloquial.

  • Robert

    They can also be referred to as “Dilmas” (after our president) and we call dollars “Obamas”. :p

  • RobMcCune

    As Pedro pointed out it’s a preamble, it has no real bearing on individual rights or the law. It’s the same kind of tea leaf reading that goes on here to prove America is a christian nation.

  • Foster

    Then I suppose that God on the money bears the same politic value that God in the constitution does.  No one’s rights are violated by sentimental phrases on money.  I happen to be appalled that Jackson is on our US twenty dollar bill after what he did to the native Americans in our country, but he is a part of our history, and he has a right to be there on that basis.  The phrase on the money has the same historical value as God in your constitution, and if it’s alright to evoke his protection in your Constitution, it’s also alright to exhort his praise on your money.  Be consistent.  I wish I were a lusophone so I could read the article you cited, but if not on legal grounds, then on the ground of logical consistency, my comment stands.

    @ Robert, after reading Orson Scott Card’s Xenocide, you’d think I would have remembered Brazil’s Portuguese patrimony, but alas, I remain finite.  My bad, and thanks for the good-natured correction.

  • Foster

    As I pointed out to Pedro, it has just as much bearing on rights and law as the existence of the godly phrase does on the money.  And America *is* a Christian  nation.  Look at some statistics some time.  Yes, yes, I know you meant legally.  Ultimately the law is not what matters, but the character of its people.  And godly phrases are a nondiscriminatory reflection of that character.  No atheists lose their jobs, can’t pay the rent or are mistreated any more than I am mistreated by Jackson being on our money despite the atrocities he committed against the native Americans.  It’s just history.

  • David Starner

     There are over 40 other presidents who also could be on our money, and hundreds of other non-presidential people. Just because Jackson is part of our history doesn’t mean he deserves a place on our money. The phrase on our money is not part of a historical work; it’s part of an actively updated and printed work and a relatively recent part of that work.

  • Silo Mowbray

    It would be great if we could eradicate all mention of religion and deities in governments across the planet. And not worry about some theists’ fee-fees.

  • David Starner

     It’s funny; many of the same people who say America is a Christian nation would object to America is a white nation, or America is a female nation, despite the same demographic numbers coming into play.

  • Silvia possas

    Acttually, as he is a federal prosecutor, it would be doutor (Dr). And he is not paying anything, it’s part of his job, as federal prosecutor. 

  • Pedro Lemos

    But I do agree with you. I don´t think any mention to any god should be in anything related to the State.
    But as hard as it can be to get this phrase out of our money, I think it would be even harder to emend the constitution and change the preamble. One fight at a time…

  • Silvia possas

     I thought I should explain a bit more, because even younger Brazilian people don’t know a lot about that.
    1. Why that phrase is on the bills? The Brazilian military dictatorship finished in a very complex way, that involved an agreement between the main (at that time) opposition party -PMDB – and part of the government party – PDS, now PP – that involved a candidate to the presidency from the PMDB – Tancredo Neves – and a VP from the PDS – José Sarney. On the eve of the inauguration, Tancredo had to be hospitalised and he never really became president. So the VP was the president, but he didn’t have popular support at all because he had been a pro-dictatorship man. Brazil was also facing a huge inflation of 30% per month and his economic team tried to finish it with  the Plano Cruzado. So he proposed that the new bills of the Cruzado should have that phrase. And during the following years, when the inflation meant that new kinds of bills were always coming up, the phrase sometimes was kept sometimes not. In 1974, our 
    Ministro da Fazenda (the minister for the economy) had a new plan – Plano Real to finish inflation and he was also running for president in that year’s elections. He was known as a man that didn’t believe in god, because in 1985 he was asked if he believed and he didn’t quite answer. At that time, that hesitation costed him the election to be São Paulo’s mayor and he wouldn’t risk again being called an atheist. So he kept the phrase in the bills of the real. He succeeded, was elected and the real is stil our currency and we still use those bills. So, as you see, the reason the bills have that phrase is because they were created by politicians that desperately needed more support.

    2. On the other side, the prosecutor is a civil servant, whose job is to protect the diffuse rights of the population. And, differently from the USA, in Brazil,  prosecutors and judges are not elected, they are selected in very difficult tests, in which they prove they know the law better than the other thousands of candidates. And their job is for life. So, Dr. Dias doesn’t have to pander for the religious people, and most Brasilians aren’t even aware of that phrase. He isn’t risking anything with that process.

  • pagansister

    Wish we in the USA could get God off our money and while we were at it, out of the Pledge!