Lawsuit Filed to Remove “In God We Trust” from U.S. Money

Here’s a fun read: A 116 page complaint filed in federal court February 1st. Why is it fun? The plaintiffs say all the things we’ve said for years. FFRF is the lead plaintiff. Its press release, issued late yesterday afternoon, follows the giant upvote.

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.”

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About Anne

Civil rights activist Anne Orsi is one of the spokespeople for the Arkansas Society of Freethinkers and is the primary organizer of Reason in the Rock, a conference on science, secularism and skepticism. Got a question? Email her at anne@aramink.com. She's a lawyer but may not be licensed in your state. Sending her an email or reading her blog posts does not create an attorney-client relationship. Find Anne on Twitter as @aramink, and read her regular blog at www.aramink.com.


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